Testing The Candidates

On 2 May 1965, an early morning commercial flight departed San Francisco Airport on a flight to San Antonio, Texas. There would be intermittent stops in Los Angeles, Tucson, Phoenix and El Paso, and the passengers included a number of men who were travelling to San Antonio for medical and psychological evaluations in the process to find NASA's first group of scientist-astronauts.

Owen Garriott was one of those men, and he recalls that by the time the flight had left Phoenix, there were nine of the candidates on board. They were, he says, "mutually identifiable by concern over eating numerous candy bars,'' in order to raise their blood sugar levels before the tests.1 He also affirmed that there were supposed to be sixteen candidates in total making their way to San Antonio, but one applicant from California had apparently changed his mind at the last minute and withdrawn. On arrival in El Paso at three o'clock that afternoon, there was a problem with a fuel pump on the left engine, causing a lengthy delay. It did little to ease the tension these men were feeling, and it would be some six hours before they were finally transferred onto another flight for the last leg of their journey. The fifteen who eventually arrived in San Antonio were:

• David J. Atkinson, from the Basic Geology Department of the Shell Development Company in Houston.

• C. William Birky, Jr., a zoologist from the University of California, Berkeley.

• Michael B. Duke, an astrogeologist with the USGS in Washington DC.

• Ernest J. DuPraw, a zoologist from the University of California, Davis.

• Owen K. Garriott, an electrical engineer from Stanford University.

• Edward G. Gibson, from CalTech, specialising in rocketry and plasma physics.

• Duane E. Graveline, an Air Force medical doctor.

• Don V. Keller, a physicist from the University of California, Berkeley, and with the Northrop Corporation in Camarillo, California.

• Joseph P. Kerwin, a medical doctor with the US Navy.

• F. Curtis Michel, a physicist from Rice University, Houston.

• Daniel J. Milton, an astrogeologist with the USGS at Menlo Park, California.

• Harrison H. Schmitt, a geologist with the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona.

• William G. Tifft, an astronomer from the Steward Observatory, University of Arizona.

• Robert Woodruff, a doctor of psychiatry with the US Navy.

• Philip J. Wyatt, with the Defense Research Corporation in Santa Barbara, California.2

On arrival in San Antonio, the men made their way as scheduled to the Bachelor Officers' Quarters at Brooks Air Force Base. The following evening, they were picked up by bus and transported to the Aerospace Medical Sciences Division of the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine for a briefing. Here, each of the scientist-astronaut candidates received a typed note of welcome from Captain Lawrence J. Enders, Chief of the Flight Medical Evaluation Section, which was attached to a personal schedule. In the note, he bid welcome to the men, with the hope that, "your stay here will be pleasant and enlightening; you may also find it exacting at times.''

Enders' note continued by stressing that they were about to undertake "the most thorough medical evaluation you will ever have.'' The men were told that there would be some thirty-five or more hours of actual medical surveillance and examinations on a rotating schedule, to allow for maximum thoroughness in evaluation by the medical staff, in the least number of days, and with the fewest non-productive hours. They were warned that certain portions of their evaluation would require advance preparation, such as fasting, abstinence from alcohol and "bowel preparation, etc." Each candidate would receive two runs on the centrifuge. The second run, they were told, "is not meant to test your maximum tolerance. The run to which you will be subjected will be similar to the re-entry 'g' profile, which might be experienced in one of the presently available spacecraft.''3

The following morning, Monday, candidate testing began in earnest. The men were split into three even groups; the first consisting of Michel, Schmitt, Milton, Kerwin and Keller; the second of DuPraw, Wyatt, Woodruff, Tifft and Duke; and the third of Gibson, Atkinson, Graveline, Garriott and Birky.

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