In a packed programme

In early 1963, the Gemini programme was manifested for ten or eleven manned flights (it evolved into ten), while early Apollo mission planning predicted four manned Earth-orbital missions launched by the Saturn 1 beginning in 1965; two to four manned Apollo Earth-orbital missions with the Saturn 1B from 1966; and at least six manned Earth-orbital and lunar-orbital flights with the Saturn V commencing in 1967. These would all lead to the first landing missions (two to six) between 1968 and 1969 and were designed to achieve the primary goal of landing Americans on the Moon before 1970. None of these missions were dedicated to scientific exploration of

Wernher von Braun, whose Saturn family of rockets took America to the Moon and launched its first space station, but which - unlike earlier plans - only carried four scientist-astronauts into space.

the Moon, which fell under the mandate of the Apollo Applications Program, or AAP.

Early plans for AAP in 1965 predicted three Saturn 1B "wet workshop'' (an expended fuelled stage) missions, three Saturn V "dry workshop'' (an unfuelled stage) launches, and four independent flights of the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM), with at least two or three Saturn 1B-launched missions transporting three astronauts to each workshop. This equated to around eighteen to twenty manned flights, which would be added to the proposed ten to eighteen manned Apollo missions assigned to the lunar landing programme, and suggested extended Apollo lunar landing missions after the initial goal had been achieved. This would be a launch manifest of some fifty manned missions (and 140 flight seats) between 1965 and 1975 under the Gemini, Apollo and AAP programmes.

By 1964, some of the Apollo Earth-orbital missions had been cancelled, due to a change from unmanned stage-by-stage testing to ''all-up testing'', eliminating hardware that would not be used in the manned lunar missions. Unflown Mercury astronaut and interim Director of Flight Crew Operations Donald (Deke) Slayton, in planning crews for the missions leading to the Moon, foresaw the need for ten crews for Gemini and eight for Apollo prior to the first landing attempt. As Slayton explained in his 1994 biography, ''My mission was to create a pool of guys who had the necessary experience in rendezvous and docking, EVA and long duration, before I had to select which three would attempt the first landing.''16 In the summer of 1964, there were twenty-six astronauts available for assignment (twenty-eight if the medically grounded Alan Shepard and Slayton were counted, as they hoped to be restored to flight status in time for Apollo). This was more than enough for Gemini and the early Apollo missions leading up to the first landing, but with increasing murmurs of discontent coming from within the scientific community, the pressure for selecting scientists as astronauts was growing.

''I didn't have anything against scientists, or doctors,'' Slayton wrote, ''but I wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to do with them on flight crews.'' In his mind, it took two or three astronauts to get the Apollo spacecraft to where it was planned to be, maintain it in space and make sure it returned home safely. ''There was no room or requirement for what would basically be a 'passenger', in other words, a scientist flying to operate experiments and not fly the vehicle. If something goes wrong with the spacecraft, you need to come home quickly, and every member of the crew would be required to 'fly' the spacecraft.'' Slayton's point would be very clearly demonstrated during the life-threatening Apollo 13 incident in 1970.

With the gradual increase in ''post-Apollo'' operations under Apollo Applications, however, the need for additional astronauts after the first landing had been achieved was clear. Therefore, the crewing requirements for the proposed AAP programme had to be planned. Allowing time for recruitment, selection and training and a period of technical support roles prior to their first flights, astronauts selected in 1965-7 would probably not get to fly before 1968-9 at the earliest. In fact for some it turned out to be 1970, with a number waiting between sixteen and nineteen years to fly their first space mission. Several of the earlier astronauts would be retiring, but with more flights it was clear that pilot-astronauts would still be required, as well as the first scientist-astronauts. However, as they would be flying on Apollo-type spacecraft for some years to come, any candidate without flying experience would have to undergo the USAF jet pilot training course before any astronaut assignment could be considered.


With the development of manned space flight came the opportunity to assign small, simple experiments to the missions, as secondary objectives to the main purpose of the mission. Flying experiments on the early spacecraft was limited by available volume, the lifting capability of the launch vehicle, restrictions on electrical power, data recording systems, manoeuvring capabilities, and the limited time available to the crew to activate or operate the experiment and to record the data they collected. Any experiment, successful or not, could not compromise the mission or the integrity of the spacecraft. Nor could it endanger the lives or health of any crew member.

Vostok & Voskhod: The primary objective of the Soviet Union's first manned space flight programmes was to develop the infrastructure and experience of orbiting cosmonauts in spacecraft of increasing capabilities and capacity, sustaining them for up to three weeks and returning them safely to Earth. As with the American pioneering space programme, there were limitations to the Soviet spacecraft that precluded extensive scientific investigations, other than very basic biomedical studies on the crew, visual observations of the Earth and Moon, and astronomical studies. Radiation measurements were taken and biological specimens were carried to support the data gathered on the biomedical parameters of each cosmonaut. When Dr. Boris Yegorov flew on the first manned Voskhod mission, it allowed a professionally trained physician to perform limited research on himself and his two colleagues, albeit on a flight that lasted barely twenty-four hours.17

Mercury: As Project Mercury evolved, a growing number of people within both NASA and the American scientific community requested that scientific experiments be flown, as part of the overall national space science programme. In addition to biomedical studies on the human crew member in space, a range of Earth observations, photographic, radiation detection, and technology studies were devised for the short-duration Mercury orbital missions. The earlier sub-orbital missions, lasting just over fifteen minutes, were far too concerned with engineering tests and qualification profiles (and astronaut safety) to warrant adding science, apart from basic medical and visual observations.

Seventeen experiments (excluding biomedical studies) were assigned to the four orbital missions, with several flying on more than one mission. As the flights increased in duration, so did the number of scientific tasks assigned to them.18 Experiments for MA-6 (Glenn) were photographic in nature, but in April 1962, the Mercury Scientific Experiment Panel (MSEP) was formed. It included representatives from different branches of the Mercury programme and the NASA space science programme, whose aim was to develop suitable experiments, nominate them for flight and prioritise which would be flown on MA-7 (initially assigned to Slayton, then Carpenter) and MA-8 (Schirra). In October 1962, the MSEP was replaced by the In-Flight Experiments Panel (IFEP), which continued the role of the MSEP for MA-9 (Cooper) and into early experiment planning for Project Gemini and Project Apollo.

Gemini: With the extended duration capability of the Gemini spacecraft, its enlarged volume, manoeuvring capability and crew of two, an expanded experiment programme was included in the Gemini programme from 1963. Fifty-four experiments were flown under the categories of medical, engineering, Department of Defense, and scientific studies. Those assigned to the first five manned flights (where the primary objectives were manned certification, EVA, rendezvous and docking, and extending the duration) were Category B experiments, or secondary objectives. Should they potentially impede a launch, they could be easily removed from the mission without serious consequences. It was important in planning and assigning these experiments that serious consideration be given to the amount of time that a crew would have direct contact with the hardware or be able to retrieve the result data. One of these experiments (assigned to the final Gemini missions GT-10, -11 and -12) was the S13 UV Astronomical Camera, whose principal investigator was Dr. Karl Henize of Dearborn and Northwestern Universities. He was subsequently selected as one of the second group of scientist-astronauts in 1967, and had briefed the three Gemini crews on his experiment during their preparations for flight.19

Apollo: The primary objective of landing a man on the Moon remained the driving force behind Apollo through to 1969, but in addition to qualifying the hardware, it was recognised that some missions could also include scientific experiments that were not directly related to the lunar exploration programme. With the original Block I missions of Apollo 1 and Apollo 2 each planned for up to fourteen days, several on-board experiments were assigned in addition to the primary goal of checking the spacecraft and its systems for the first time with astronauts aboard. Apollo 2 offered the opportunity to fly repeat experiments, or to re-fly an experiment that had failed during Apollo 1. Nine medical, two scientific and one technology experiment were assigned to Apollo 1, but after a review of the science package, four of the medical and the single technology experiment were found to be unsuitable and were dropped (with an alternative medical investigation added instead). Apollo 2 was manifested for fourteen experiments; eight medical and six scientific.

The details of these experiments and the saga of the Apollo 1 and 2 science programme and missions have already been covered in this series,20 but it is worth recalling the CB (Astronaut Office - the pilots) concerns about flying too many science experiments, in addition to the extensive engineering tests planned for both missions, on what were essentially the maiden flights of these vehicles. The ever-increasing experiment load on Apollo 2 was of greatest concern. It has been stated that Grissom wanted to delete anything non-engineering from Apollo 1 and lump it instead onto Apollo 2, but that flight's commander (Schirra) was, if anything, famously more antiscience than Grissom, even though he did complete a range of science experiments on his Mercury mission. Apollo 2 was cancelled in November 1966 and after the Apollo 1 pad fire of January 1967, Block I missions were terminated, allowing the programme to proceed to Block II (Apollo lunar mission capability). Apollo 7, to which Schirra's crew had been reassigned after the launch pad tragedy, was a successful 1968 flight which qualified the Command and Service Module in Earth orbit, but carried few "experiments" other than engineering tasks. Its five experiments included two on Earth terrain and weather photography, and three medical experiments that required no in-flight crew activity.

Photography continued to be a major objective on all Apollo missions and this included further Earth observation photographic experiments on Apollo 9. During Apollo 8 and 10-13 and the challenge to achieve the first lunar landings, the major objective was to get to the Moon in proven spacecraft, complete the mission and return safely. Little thought was therefore given to science outside of lunar operations, photography and surface activities. But with Apollo 14-17, the opportunity arose to fly several experiments to investigate the phenomena of microgravity during translunar and trans-Earth coasts. These experiments would serve as precursors for more extensive studies on the Skylab space station, where some of the first scientist-astronauts (already in training) would conduct extensive studies in a space laboratory converted from leftover Apollo hardware.

Soyuz: This programme has been the mainstay of Soviet/Russian manned space flight since the mid-1960s.21 For the initial manned flights, the techniques of rendezvous, docking and crew transfer were developed alongside the qualification of the spacecraft. Part of this development was also connected to the manned lunar programme (Zond/N1/N3), which should have competed with America's Apollo programme in the race to the Moon but which included no manned flight activities prior to its cancellation in 1974. Since 1971, Soyuz (meaning "union") has been used as a ferry craft carrying crew and cargo payloads to and from a series of space stations. Between 1969 and 1976, it supported a small series of solo flights carrying a range of experiments and research, including:

Soyuz 6 1969 Oct First experiments in space welding

Soyuz 9 1970 Jun Medical studies during an extended duration flight of 18 days

Soyuz 13 1973 Dec Astrophysical and biological research

Soyuz 16 1974 Dec Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) dress rehearsal mission

Soyuz 19 1975 Jul ASTP docking mission with American Apollo

Soyuz 22 1976 Sep Earth resources observations.

Though these flights and experiments were directly related to the ensuing Soviet manned space station programme known as Salyut ("salute"), there were no Soviet scientists among the crews. A small corps of scientists from the Academy of Sciences, not unlike the selection of NASA's scientist-astronauts, was considered for inclusion on space station missions for a short period. Unfortunately, none would ever make it into space.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
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