Dr Bills orbital clinic

With feedback from STS-2, Thornton was able to bring to the forefront his own thoughts and ideas for investigations into the SAS problem. He drew upon his own experiences from MOL, SMEAT, Skylab and ground simulations to develop a package of simple but effective investigations to try to address the problem. The first opportunity to study Space Adaptation Sickness on the Shuttle would really be on the STS-9 Spacelab 1 mission. However, Thornton was able to demonstrate that key data could be obtained relatively simply and with little expense by using basic techniques from which more intense studies could be performed, such as on longer Spacelab missions. Thornton worked with STS-4 commander Ken Mattingly on increasing the EKG amplifier gain rate (the EKG was used for ascent but then not used again) to obtain the first eye motion recording in flight, giving Thornton a powerful tool to support his case for flying his suite of investigations early. He then tried some further investigations with Allen and Lenoir on STS-5 before repeating the experiments on STS-6. Thagard was assigned to STS-7 and "did a great job'' with Thornton's experiment package prior to Thornton's own flight on STS-8.21

Due to limited preparation time prior to the mission, and restricted crew time (other than Thornton's) and volume inside the vehicle, a precise determination of which experiments and investigations to fly had to be made. As Thornton recalled: "STS-8 was the first, and probably only, flight that an investigator was ever allowed to make his own selection of experiments and fly with it. It was a combination of what I considered could be done and the most essential things that needed doing, because if you use Meniere's disease (the inner ear ailment that had grounded Alan Shepard for years) for example as a model of space motion sickness, which it wasn't, there were all kinds of abnormal eye motions. The biggest single drive was to record eye motion during space motion sickness and that's why I concentrated on that. It was a combination of what was possible, such as recording bowel sounds (which turned out to be an excellent marker of space motion sickness especially when you recover), versus the things that needed to be done.'' Some of these, to Thornton's frustration, were never followed up after the flight.

Aboard STS-8, Thornton's studies encompassed seven basic disciplines:22

• Audiometry - testing of aural sensitivity thresholds.

• Bio monitoring - monitoring of crew health and medical status.

• Electrical-oculography - recording and measuring of eye movements.

• Kinesymmetry - study of the repeatability of physical motion.

• Photography - photo records of leg volume changes, if any.

• Plethysmography - volume of limbs measured in circumference.

• Tonometry - measurement of external tissue pressure.

Thornton flew as MS 3 aboard STS-8. As he was assigned just ten months prior to launch specifically to conduct SAS studies and various medical test objectives, and was deeply involved with these objectives on STS-7 as well, he received minimal orbiter system training, concentrating his efforts on the medical test objectives.23

In his preparation for the mission, Thornton attended only the post-insertion, orbit timeline and de-orbit lessons from the STS-8 training programme. While training for the major payload involving the mission specialists was beneficial, the crew reported that the biofeedback experiment and preparation for the CFES were highly unsatisfactory. Bill Thornton felt that technical support associated with the biofeedback experiment was poor, as the appropriate hardware was never available until just prior to the flight. On more than one occasion, he felt he had to drive both the preparation of the experiment for flight and the training for the sample preparation.24 In summary, Thornton's training load (planned/actual) for his first mission was recorded as:

Table 4. MS 3 Bill Thornton planned vs. actual training hours STS-8

Course

Planned hours

Actual hours

Ascent integrated sims

0

0

Orbit integrated sims

110

57

Entry integrated sims

6

3

Ascent flight operations

0

0

Orbit flight operations

0

4

Entry flight operations

0

0

Shuttle training aircraft

0

0

GNC/DPS

0

0

Orbiter support systems

17

13

Crew systems

78

64

EVA operations

0

0

Rndz/Prox Ops

0

0

PDRS

0

0

PAM systems

0

0

Payloads

17

17

Total

228

158

Comparison with Musgrave's preparation for STS-6 reveals the dedicated work Thornton was assigned to on STS-8 (almost payload specialist-level duration), mainly due to his late assignment to the mission.

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