Garriotts diary

Owen Garriott kept a daily record, and the extent of the tests, evaluations and interviews can be established from this. First of all there were blood sugar tests: 50 cc of blood was extracted, and then each subject had to drink a large cup of glucose, after which four smaller blood samples were taken at thirty-minute intervals to observe any variation of sugar concentration. Eighteen dental X-rays were taken, and then there was a brief discussion about the subject's medical history. As Garriott recalls, the doctor involved in this was in something of a hurry, ''since just that morning he had been notified that he was leaving for Vietnam that afternoon.''2 After lunch there was another general examination, largely abdominal, and then the candidates took part in a ''cold pressor'' test, which involved immersing a hand in ice water for a minute while doctors watched their blood pressure and heart rate. After more blood pressure checks, there was a session of lengthy electrocardiogram recordings with electrodes strapped all over their bodies.

On Tuesday, vestor cardiograms were carried out in a shielded cage, followed by phono-cardiograms and then a session on the ''tilt table'' to conduct an evaluation of the way each candidate's body regulated blood pressure in response to some simple stresses. Stretched flat in a supine position on this table, the degree of tilt was adjusted from horizontal to almost vertical while the subject was asked to hold their breath and then hyperventilate while readings were taken. Each man was then subjected to four or five centrifuge runs without the aid of a pressure suit; first quickly up to around 4 G and back, and then quickly to 5 G.

Later, they experienced the simulated g-profile of an abort off the pad using dynamics associated with the ''Little Joe" abort escape rocket that reached a peak loading of 10.5 G. ''It felt like an elephant sitting on your chest,'' according to Gibson. Breathing could only be accomplished using the diaphragm, not the chest. During the entire test, heart EKGs were taken, as well as television pictures of their faces to monitor their physical and physiological status.

In the afternoon they endured "double masters," involving forty-eight trips over a turnstile while the doctors checked their blood pressure. This was followed by a session on the treadmill. The speed was set at 3.5 mph and the tilt was slowly increased by one degree per minute. Garriott was later told that the normal range was around twelve to eighteen minutes, although his group went for seventeen to twenty-seven minutes. His own "record" was twenty-two minutes, while Gibson hit twenty-seven minutes. After a short break it was time for more photos and abdominal X-rays.

The next day started on a sour note, with orders issued not to have breakfast before the next round of tests. Their first meal of the day was actually a "tritium cocktail," which comprised a small, 250-millicurie dose of Hydrogen-3 in a cup of water, after which further blood samples were taken to measure total body water. Then came the psychology tests: the standard Rorschach ink-blot quiz, making up stories based on seven pictures; mental arithmetic; word definitions; jigsaw puzzles; and IQ examinations. This lasted for about four hours. Following this they completed a neurological check-up and an electro-encephalograph (EEG). The latter included placing fifteen quarter-inch needles just under the skin, which were then taped parallel to the skin surface in order to make a good, subcutaneous electrical contact.

Thursday also began without breakfast, although the candidates had taken six tablets the night before to prepare them for their gastrointestinal "barium milkshake". They then underwent a fluoroscope, which tracked the barium through their stomach and duodenum. Thirteen new X-rays were also taken, followed by respiratory tests, with each man's vital capacity and residual volume measured. In part, this entailed breathing in pure oxygen and then checking for any nitrogen concentration in their exhalation. A visit to the centre's psychiatrist followed, but most of the men were only quizzed for up to thirty minutes.

On Friday the routine continued as before with no breakfast, but each candidate was required to drink a litre of water. Ocular tests were next on the list, with each candidate's eyes carefully checked during night vision, dilation and pressure evaluations. The latter test was developed to measure the eye's susceptibility to glaucoma and to check that the eye canals drained fluid away satisfactorily. In order to measure intraocular pressure, a five-gram weight was rested on each eyeball, which had been anaesthetised beforehand. Later that day came the measurement of their body weight and volume in a tank, to determine body density and fat percentage, followed by a full dental check-up. The day ended on a brighter note, however, with a cocktail party at the Officers' Club, compliments of the school's commander, Colonel Harold V. Ellingson. But they all took care to heed a notice they had been handed that day, which read: "Tomorrow you are going to receive a routine altitude chamber indoctrination flight. For your own comfort we advise you to avoid supper and breakfast foods which would promote excess gas formation in the intestines; such foods include cabbage, beans, green roughage and fried or greasy foods. Eat a light breakfast. Smile! Your friendly Aviation Medicine Department.''3

Saturday entailed the promised trip to the centre's altitude chamber to test their susceptibility to hypoxia and any other difficulties connected with high altitudes and oxygen deprivation. Prior to the first test, they were required to breathe pure oxygen, and were then "flown" to an altitude of 5,000 feet and back to check that all their breathing canals, such as the Eustachian tubes, were open. The simulation then took them up to 43,000 feet at a rate of 7,000 feet per minute, then back down to 25,000 feet, at which point they were told to remove their oxygen masks to experience an hypoxic state. During this period they were asked to write their names, and Owen Garriott recalls that his signature became an illegible scribble within three to five minutes. After this, the pressure chamber was regulated to bring them down to ground level, then back up to 8,000 feet, where they underwent a rapid decompression before continuing up to 23,000 feet and then finally being brought back to ground level.

Sunday was a day off from the tests, so the men mostly slept in or sat around and rested. Garriott stated that there was nothing scheduled for Monday morning, "so I talked the testing crew into an extra Gemini re-entry profile in the centrifuge. Up to 8.2 G with no difficulty, except [for] pressure on chest.'' In the afternoon, they were given an exercise at the controls of an aircraft simulator, and then they were handed more written exams. Garriott says he had to stay up all night for an EEG repeat, and was very grateful to Joe Kerwin, who remained with him until 5: 15 a.m. to help him stay awake.

It was back to the tests on Tuesday, with more ear, nose, and throat tests in the morning. When these were finished, the men were able to check on their psychological tests, and all seemed in order, with fairly consistent results across the group. That evening, the candidates were flown to Houston, where they were checked into the Rice Hotel.

Their first day in Houston began with an interview conducted by a medical panel. Among those doing the interviews were Drs. Clarence Jernigan, Charles Berry, and Bill Carpentier. They revealed any anomalies in the medical tests to the candidates, and then asked them about their motivation for joining the space programme. The next part of the day was given over to one of the most anticipated events - a flight in a T-38, some with NASA test pilot and Chief of Aircraft Operations, Joe Algranti, others with NASA test pilot, Bud Ream. The men sat in the back seat discussing manoeuvres and experiencing aerobatics performed by some of the best pilots in the skies. Garriott recalls Algranti, his pilot, performing dizzying loops and quick rolls of 360 and 720 degrees, and then initiating stalls with and without flaps. After this, he descended gradually toward the ground to accelerate up to about Mach 1.1, quickly manoeuvred and rolled, then climbed again on idle power at sixty degrees until the T-38 stalled, after which he made a hands-off recovery. After his flight, Garriott wrote that he thought he would find the T-38 "a very easy plane to fly and extremely easy to handle.''

Late that afternoon, the candidates met for a general interview, this time with Deke Slayton, Alan Shepard, Max Faget, Warren North, Joe Shea and Jack Clark. They discussed space flight experiments it was felt the candidates could conduct, their motivation, experience and other general topics. With that, the tests were at an end. The following day, 13 May, they were taken on a tour of the Manned Spacecraft Center and local housing areas, had a meeting with Flight Director Chris Kraft and, that evening, celebrated the end of the tests and interviews with a cocktail party and dinner. Most of them seemed to feel they had done well, although a few had their doubts.

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