Flight surgeon

By now he was keen to join the Air Force as a flight surgeon, no doubt influenced in this ambition by his father, who had been a pilot in the Civil Air Patrol. Graveline could never understand his younger brother, Norman, not sharing this sublime passion. Following a two-month assignment as an assistant to a family doctor in

Vermont, he drove down to Washington DC to take up a USAF Medical Service internship at the Walter Reed Medical Center.

In June 1956, Graveline attended the primary course in Aviation Medicine, Class 566, at Randolph AFB in Texas. He was later assigned to Kelly AFB, also in Texas, as Chief of the Aviation Medicine Service. His job as flight surgeon required him to become familiar with the flight environment, and he loved every minute of this training, during which, "I flew in everything they had with more than one seat.''

Reasoning that a pilot might become incapacitated during flight, requiring an accompanying flight surgeon to assume control, the Air Force trained its flight surgeons to a "ready-to-solo" level of experience. In this way, he got to fly such aircraft as the C-45, KC-97, C-124, XC-99 and C-119, while he racked up thirty hours of instruction time, "the unforgettable frosting on that delicious flying cake,'' in the sleek T-bird jet trainers, particularly the TF-100 and TF-102. "I actually used to feel somewhat guilty when I picked up my pay check with its extra cash for flight pay. Where else but the Air Force was this kind of thing readily available to you and they paid you for it?'' When asked, his favourite recollection of that time is of the many hours he spent flying as second pilot aboard the nimble, two-seater T-33 jet trainer. "During my instruction in this bird, I still remember the thrill of rolling her over into a split S and holding her on 'burble' during pullout. I loved it.''

In October 1957 Graveline was attending Johns Hopkins University as part of his Aerospace Medical residency, and studying the effects of prolonged weightlessness on the human body, when he learned that Russia had launched the world's first artificial satellite into orbit. His excitement at this event was only compounded the following month when canine passenger Laika was sent aloft on a one-way journey aboard Sputnik II. ''Little did I know then that only a few years later at Wright-Patterson AFBI would be studying Laika's bio-readouts in the top-secret labyrinth of FTD, our Foreign Technology Division. Through Foreign Technology, I learned the true scope of the Soviet bioastronautics programme and it was impressive. By the time we launched John Glenn, the Soviets had given us a tremendous amount of information about space flight.''

His time at Johns Hopkins came to an end in 1958 when he departed with a Master's degree in public health. He then took up the Aerospace Medical residency at the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, completing his residency training at Brooks AFB, San Antonio, in July 1960.

Because of his interest and research into the biological effects of weightlessness, Graveline (now known to one and all as ''Doc'') became a medical flight controller for NASA's Mercury programme. In this capacity, he was involved in events leading up to the orbital mission of John Glenn, especially the biomedical studies surrounding the precursory space flight of chimpanzee Enos. At this time, he was temporarily based on Canton Island in the South Pacific. He then continued working for NASA as a flight controller in the early phases of the Gemini programme. During this period of his life, he was also still working with the FTD as a medical analyst, attempting to deduce what the Soviets were doing in their bioastronautics programme.

Eventually, he carried out two tours at Canton Island, and two tours aboard the tracking ship Rose Knot Victor. While conducting his studies on one of these seaborne tours in March 1965, he was engaged in some particularly rewarding work during the flight of cosmonauts Aleksey Leonov and Pavel Belyayev aboard their Voskhod 2 spacecraft. ''I was able to direct our entire 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 our high frequency receivers and simple antennas - standard items at every tracking station. The frequencies and orbital parameters were carried in my head.''

The year before, Graveline had read that NASA was accepting applications for the position of scientist-astronaut, and fired in his application - one of 1700 eventually received by the space agency. It was a long, anxious wait of almost a year for the applicants, as their numbers were slowly culled down to four hundred through a process of elimination, and the remaining applications were forwarded to the National Academy of Sciences for further perusal. Their review eventually recommended that he be one of a group brought to the School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks AFB for evaluative testing.

''The screening process took several weeks, and included the usual assortment of medical tests, prodding and probing into every nook and cranny, personality and emotional evaluation with all the usual inkblot, Rorschach and MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) tests, and even intelligence testing with all the latest methods.'' When asked about the rigorous testing to which he was subjected in the latter stages of the selection process, he recalled his experience pulling 10 G on the centrifuge as the most difficult. ''At that time I was thirty-five, but even then, transverse Gs at those levels were very uncomfortable. Perhaps as a doctor I was aware that the discomfort was coming from the stretching of tissues in my body not designed for this kind of thing.''

NASA flight surgeon and Navy pilot Dr. Fred Kelly (himself an unsuccessful applicant for the same group) had previously worked with ''Doc'' Graveline, and was watching his application with interest, as he later wrote in his book:

''Duane Graveline - now there was a fierce competitor. He was real competition. He was firmly established as one of the leading researchers in aerospace medicine, had performed most of the basic research into the physiology of weightlessness, and was the first to use underwater simulation of weightlessness. He was now assigned by the US Air Force to monitor the biological data from every space flight the Russians had put up. He probably knew more about the Russian space programme than the Russians. In addition to all of his professional qualifications, he was young, articulate, ran three miles every day, and certainly had the motivation. I would be disappointed in the system if Duane were not selected. Duane was definitely my first choice - after me.''14

With Graveline's selection as one of six Group 4 scientist-astronauts, there was another decision to be made. ''After my acceptance as a NASA scientist-astronaut was announced, I made my decision to leave the Air Force. I was a major at that time. My reasoning was that I wanted to be permanently with NASA in a civilian capacity, not as an Air Force 'loaner.' I thought my career in NASA would be better if they 'owned' me.'' It was a decision that would soon have an enormous impact on his future life.

Courage Conqueror

Courage Conqueror

Do You Want To Be More Courageous, Push Negativity Out Of Your Life, and Have More Self Belief? Learn How, In Just A Very Short Time, You Can Put an END To Your Lack Of Bravery And Feel More In Control Of Your Life Than Ever Before... GUARANTEED.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment