Medicine takes precedence over Earth science

During the Apollo programme, NASA decided to invite a select group of Earth-sciences people to train its astronauts in Earth surveillance from orbit. Oceanographer Bob Stevenson from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography had already been training the Gemini astronauts, and he would be joined in giving these crew lectures by Australian-born Dr. Paul Scully-Power during the latter's first work assignment in the

A close-up of Musgrave during the EVA, revealing the chest-mounted control panel, cuff-mounted procedures checklist, restraint devices and helmet-mounted lights of the Shuttle EVA suit design he helped develop and evaluate as a technical assignment in the Astronaut Office.

United States for the Naval Underwater Systems Center in Connecticut. In 1978, Scully-Power was officially invited by NASA to join Stevenson in further briefing sessions at JSC, specifically designed for Shuttle crews. By the time Columbia was first launched into space in April 1981, Stevenson and Scully-Power had developed a strong rapport with the Shuttle crews, who rewarded their involvement by bringing back magnificent and specifically-requested photographs of ocean phenomena.

As Stevenson revealed, there was already a big push from within NASA to have specialised oceanographers aboard future Shuttle missions, and they were looking at STS-7 and STS-8 to launch this particular programme.

Musgrave monitors the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES) loaded aboard the mid-deck of Challenger during STS-6

"One of the strongest advocates of this was Dick Truly, who flew on the second Shuttle mission. While the first Shuttle flight had only been a two-day proving mission, STS-2 was sent up for five days, and carried the first Synthetic Imaging Radar (SIR-A). Paul and I were the Navy oceanographers assigned to that experiment.

"It was after that flight ... that the thought of flying an oceanographer was expressed by Dick Truly to George Abbey, who was the Director of the Flight Crew Operations Division - an influential guy at NASA who had the final say on crew selections. The idea did not advance beyond the few of us until mid-1982 when the Shuttle test programme had been completed with the flight of STS-4, and the crews could then be expanded to four or five members.

"Had the problem of'space sickness' not begun to cause concern amongst NASA Headquarters people, then I would have flown on STS-7 with Bob Crippen and Sally Ride, and Paul would have flown on STS-8 with Dick Truly and his gang. The follow-on would have been for both of us to fly on 41-G, as it was to be (and was) a high-inclination orbit, and would carry SIR-B and the large format camera. It was not to be, however, as physician Norman Thagard was assigned to STS-7 and Bill Thornton to STS-8. At least they learned that space sickness could not be solved with a pill.''

Stevenson would later be asked if he wanted to join the STS 41-G crew as a payload specialist oceanographer, but he would selflessly decline due to his wife's advanced cancer treatment. Instead, Scully-Power would fly the mission. Stevenson would later be reassigned to STS 61-L in August 1986, but this flight, and his only opportunity to fly into orbit, disappeared with the loss of orbiter Challenger.

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