Selecting the selection board

By December 1964, the process of selecting the first group of scientist-astronauts was under way, but there remained the question of who would form the selection board to review the applications. NASA Headquarters proposed that representatives from the Office of Manned Space Flight (OMSF) and the Office of Space Science (OSS) should participate, along with representatives of MSC and the Astronaut Office. But MSC Director Robert Gilruth disagreed. He thought that the selection board should remain small and that if members from Headquarters were added, this would complicate the

Five flight surgeons/naval aviators attend a meeting at Houston's Manned Spacecraft Center in 1964 for training as aero-medical flight controllers for the Gemini programme. Left to right: Drs. Fred Kelly, Jeff Jeffries, Joe Kerwin (later a Group 4 scientist-astronaut), Bob Kelly and Ed Jacobs

exercise. In Gilruth's opinion, the field centres should carry out the selection, with later vetting by OSS and OMSF prior to final approval. The inclusion of a scientist was recommended and a seven-member NASA board was proposed, to represent management, programme, scientific, engineering, medical and operational viewpoints, as well as meeting political, congressional and scientific agendas. Eventually, a six-member NASA board was formed, with a further nine members comprising the NAS selection board that processed the applications prior to passing them on to NASA.

Table 1. Selection boards for the NASA Astronaut Class of 1965 (Group IV).

NAS Selection Board Members: Dr. Allan H. Brown

Prof. Loren D. Carlson

Prof. Frederick L. Ferris Jr. Dr. Thomas Gold

Dr. H. Keffer Dr. Clifford T. Morgan Dr. Eugene M. Shoemaker Dr. Robert Speed Prof. Aaron C. Waters

NASA Selection Board Members: Charles A. Berry, MD John F. Clark Maxime A. Faget Warren J. North Alan B. Shepard Jr. Donald K. Slayton

Department of Biology, Joseph Leidy Laboratory of Biology, University of Pennsylvania. Department of Physiology, University of California Medical School, Davis. Educational Service Inc.

Chairman, Astronomy Department and Director, Center for Radio Physics and Space Research, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York Hartline Rockefeller University Department of Physiology, University of California. Astrogeology Branch, United States Geological Survey Department of Geology, Northwestern University Department of Geology, University of California.

NASA Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland. Director, Engineering and Development, NASA MSC Chief, Flight Crew Support Division, NASA MSC Chief Astronaut, NASA MSC Astronaut and Director of Flight Crew Operations, NASA JSC

The inclusion of astronauts in the selection board was logical, as it enhanced the general understanding of the requirements needed by each individual for current and future programmes, and would give the applicants a chance to meet someone with whom they would work and who had gone through a similar selection process. The inclusion of "active" astronauts on NASA astronaut-candidate selection boards has continued to the present day.

With all these issues resolved, the objective was not to select America's first group of scientist-astronauts immediately, but to refine the selection process to take into consideration additional academic qualifications and limited flying credentials.

Gene Shoemaker, a member of the NAS Selection Board, was among those who had lobbied hard for the inclusion of a group of scientists into NASA's astronaut corps. In fact, he was also one of the early leading candidates for selection before being diagnosed with Addison's Disease, a hormonal disorder characterised by muscle weakness, fatigue and low blood pressure, which precluded his involvement as a scientist-astronaut.

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