The Excess Eleven

As members of the first group of scientist-astronauts were completing their training, plans for the Apollo Applications Program were expanding in scope, but being cut back financially.

Over the following fifteen years, Apollo hardware was expected to be involved in at least ten manned landings in the mainstream programme, before being used to implement extended lunar surface explorations that could lead to a manned lunar research station. Redesigned Apollo hardware was also planned for use in developing the first space stations in Earth and lunar orbit, while new space logistics systems would be developed to support and eventually replace Apollo. This would lead to high space complexes, permanent lunar bases, and many more Americans venturing to the Moon. At least, that was the plan.


In order to crew such grand visions for the future, it was quite evident that a corps of less than thirty-six astronauts was inadequate for the task. Therefore, a two-part astronaut selection process was initiated to begin expanding the Astronaut Office. These new recruits would support operations after the first manned Apollo landing, whatever they may be.

Deke Slayton was concerned, however, and stressed caution before overloading the programme with too many astronauts at a time of uncertainty. It was clear that mounting rumours of budgets cuts could threaten the Apollo lunar effort, let alone any endeavour beyond, so for any astronaut selected after 1966 there was less guarantee of flying than in the early days. Nevertheless, after nineteen pilots were selected in May 1966, a call for a second group of scientist-astronauts was issued on 26 September 1966. Once again, this included the active participation of the National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council (NAS-NRC). These eminent bodies would conduct the initial and intermediate stages of screening and selection, and NASA would then make the final selection from those applicants recommended by the selection committee of the NAS-NRC.

Applications were invited from those with a doctorate (or equivalent in experience) in the natural sciences, medicine or engineering. With NAS-NRC expecting relatively early flights for those selected, a strong emphasis was placed on the fields of astronomy, biology, engineering, geology, medicine and physics. The first stage in the process was based on information supplied by the applicants, which included their background, education, training, special capabilities, skills or qualifications, teaching, and research and clinical experience, as well as their involvement in professional associations and societies. Supporting documentation was also required, and this had to include multiple references, a research bibliography, college transcripts, aptitude tests and a medical history.

Accompanying the press release was a message from Gene Shoemaker, who would chair the Academy's selection panel. In it he wrote: "Scientific investigations from manned space platforms and direct observations on the Moon will initiate a new phase in man's quest for knowledge. While such missions call for daring and courage of a rare kind, for the scientists they will also represent a unique adventure of the mind, requiring maturity and judgment of a high order.''

Geologist Donald Beattie could not resist the challenge; he knew Gene Shoemaker as a colleague, and he was also known to several other members of the selection panel. He had applied for the first scientist-astronaut group but had missed out, being one inch over the height limit and nine months over the age limit. In his 2001 book, he said that he felt he stood a good chance of selection.1 "The Academy had been somewhat disappointed by the number of applications received from the first selection, although the six chosen had excellent qualifications, and thus the selection criteria were a little more relaxed the second time. The age and height limits had not been changed, but this time the press release stated that 'exceptions to any of the ... requirements will be allowed in outstanding cases.' Perhaps now I had a chance. Could I qualify as an 'outstanding case'?''

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