But in my case there was something more - a decade devoted to man-in space research preceding my selection as astronaut. I did the very first bed rest and water immersion studies designed to explore zero gravity de-conditioning at the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories. The need for daily muscle exercise while in zero gravity, pre-de-orbit water and salt restitution and post recovery G-suit support are direct fallouts of this research. The Lower Body Negative Pressure device used on Mir as well as our Skylab and Shuttle flights originated with my first prototype at the School of Aerospace Medicine in 1961. The shop foreman said it looked like "half-a-casket" to him (It did!) and he would not try it out. With this gadget you could do orthostatic testing of the circulatory system even though recumbent (or in zero gravity).
Additionally during this time I was Aerospace Medical Analyst for our Foreign Technology Team. Need I remind anyone that the Soviets were far ahead of us in space at that time? Let me assure you that whenever they did their thing from the launch of Sputnik on, we got the data about as soon as the Soviet ground controllers did. I could confirm from Laika's electrocardiograms in November of 1957 that she survived at least the first two days in orbit.
As you may know, that was a one-way mission. Similarly, analysis of their bioinstrumentation and biotelemetry during the manned Vostok and Voskhod flights was my province. Not only did we have their periodic, high-speed "dumps" of VHF transmitted bio-data, we also had their continuously transmitted HF bio-data, used primarily for flight safety monitoring. Long before Glenn's three-orbit mission we had very reassuring and comprehensive cosmonaut bio-data from the preceding Soviet space flights. This was a unique and heady experience for me. Many were my briefing trips to Headquarters, NASA and the military during this five-year period.
Also during this same time I was a member of NASA's flight controller team from the chimp flight of Enos, throughout Mercury and well into our Gemini flights. Duty stations were many including two tours at Canton Island in the South Pacific and two tours on one of our tracking ships, Rose Knot Victor.
It was during one of the tracking ship tours that I was able to direct the entire U.S. worldwide tracking network to monitor the bio-data emanating from a Voskhod multi-manned spacecraft coincidentally launched by the Soviets during our deployment. All we needed were the high frequency receivers and simple antennas - standard items at every tracking station. The frequencies and orbital parameters were carried in my head.
Because of this background I feel well qualified to join the ranks of the space men and hold my head high. NASA still calls me back yearly for my astronaut physical as part of their Longitudinal Study of Astronaut Health and my astronaut badge gets me admitted to most NASA facilities. If they ever want to do a follow-up of John Glenn's recent mission with another senior citizen I'll be waiting.
Duane Graveline MD MPH
Former USAF Flight Surgeon
Former NASA Astronaut
Retired Family Doctor