By January, some 923 applications had been received for an expected twenty to thirty openings. Slayton had asked for that number due to the high attrition rate he expected as a result of several factors. These included flight school, the training programme, or even accidents. However it soon became clear that the number of qualified applicants would once again fall far short of what had been envisaged.
The next stage of the NAS-NRC screening then took place, which involved looking through reprints of published scientific papers that were representative of the applicant's work, and determining its relevance to the role of scientist-astronaut. The screening board also read essays on investigations the candidate would like to conduct in Earth orbit or on the lunar surface, or both. At the completion of this stage the NAS-NRC committee made its selections, and these names would in turn be passed on to NASA. Eventually, only sixty-nine names were forwarded to NASA for final screening.
The next step in the process was a background and security check conducted by the United States Civil Service Commission. They would examine each candidate's life history and carry out extensive interviews with family members, work colleagues, instructors, neighbours, friends and other sources of information from every period of the candidate's life. Once this was completed, the CSC would issue a clearance for the applicant's involvement in such a sensitive and classified position.
As with the first group of scientist-astronaut applicants, the candidates were then required to present themselves to the School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio.2 Here, they would undergo a full week of tests and examinations lasting about ten hours per day. These were designed not only to qualify the candidate medically for space flight status, but also to provide extensive baseline data on parameters and systems that might be altered by space flight or other parts of the operational environment experienced by an astronaut. While a thorough systems review and examination was performed, emphasis was placed on aero-medically important areas such as biochemistry, haematology, neurology, psychiatry, ophthalmology, the vestibular system and cardiology. There were also several operational tests, including cardiovascular and performance responses to acceleration forces of 9 G for one minute, and cardiovascular response to exercise on a slowly-accelerating treadmill (which also determined maximum oxygen consumption).
On the final day, there came what would be the highlight for many - an acrobatic flight in a supersonic aircraft to measure their reactions to a new and relevant environment. This exercise would also give them an early and dramatic insight into the nature of the career for which they were now applying.
Following this battery of tests and interviews, each of the remaining candidates was asked to make their way to Houston in June and present themselves for a final array of tests and a probing interview with members of the NASA selection committee, who would make a final determination.
Candidate Don Beattie had made it through to this testing process, and recalls enduring "a week of prodding, blood work, and spinning, IQ, and many other tests, some of which were vividly shown in the movie 'The Right Stuff,' though not with the same comic detail. While I was tilted upside-down with my stomach filled with a barium solution, they discovered that I had a slight hiatal hernia: the muscles in my oesophagus couldn't hold all of the solution in my stomach.''
Beattie's other results had seemingly been good, and as it was only a minor ailment, he was sent to the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington DC for further evaluation. The doctors there concluded that it was not a disqualifying ailment, and could be easily overcome by taking an antacid tablet. He was therefore one of the twenty-one candidates who presented themselves for the last selection interviews. ''Our backgrounds included almost all scientific disciplines, but as I read the list I saw I was the lone geologist, along with one geophysicist. Only two Earth scientists! Most of the post-Apollo science activities we were planning had some Earth science connection; I thought my selection was in the bag!''
After the twenty-one candidates had checked in they were gathered at Ellington AFB, where they would be taken for a spin in one of NASA's T-38 jet aircraft to check their level of comfort during aerobatic manoeuvres. Next, they were strapped into the Spacecraft Center's centrifuge and whirled around at 6 G while they tried to perform some simple tasks with light switches. Then came the final interviews, as Beattie relates:
"I recall only four people in the room: Al [Shepard], Deke [Slayton], Bill Hess and Charles Berry, who was head of the medical sciences office - the astronauts' doctor. All the questions were rather innocuous. Berry asked about the hiatal hernia. The only question that stands out in my mind was the one Deke asked: 'Don't you think you're too old to be an astronaut?' I was thirty-seven at the time and not the oldest of the final twenty-one candidates, but I knew I was over the advertised age allowance, so I had done a little homework. I answered, 'I don't think so; after all, I'm younger than Wally Schirra, and he's still flying!' I thought my selection was now only a formality. That afternoon I did some preliminary house hunting in the neighbourhoods around NASA.''
The official Group 6 portrait. Standing (l to r): Joseph Allen IV, PhD, Karl Henize, PhD, Anthony England, PhD, Donald Holmquest, MD, Story Musgrave, MD, PhD, William Lenoir, PhD, Brian O'Leary, PhD. Seated: Philip Chapman, SD, Robert Parker, PhD, William Thornton, MD, and John (Tony) Llewellyn, PhD.
Unfortunately, Beattie did not make the cut. Early in August, Alan Shepard called to say he hadn't been one of the eleven selected. The other Earth scientist, Anthony England, was one of the lucky ones.
On 4 August 1967, the names of eleven new scientist-astronauts were announced. Unlike the first group of scientist-astronauts, none had previous pilot training, and all eleven would have to complete the fifty-three-week jet pilot course. With academic studies and survival technique training as well, they were not scheduled to report for active flight assignment at NASA until the summer of 1969.
They were a diverse collection of talented men who would ultimately have mixed space careers, but who joined the programme for a variety of reasons. Their collective qualifications were outstanding: all were PhD (or D.Sc) scientists or MDs, and the group comprised three astronomers, two physicists, one chemist, one geophysicist, one electrical engineer, two MD-PhD physiologists, and one MD/physicist. Not all of
Members of the sixth astronaut group and second scientist-astronaut group in a more informal gathering shortly after being announced by NASA. Left to right: (at the back) Llewellyn, England, Thornton, Lenoir, Chapman, (kneeling) Parker, Henize, O'Leary and Allen. Missing from this photo are Holmquest and Musgrave.
them were expecting, or necessarily wanted, to fly to the Moon. In the event, it would be many years before any of this group even reached orbit. On the very day they reported to Houston, Deke Slayton informed them in no uncertain terms that they would definitely not get flight seats in the shrinking Apollo programme, and that if any of them wanted to leave immediately, it would not be held against them. None did, at least on that day.
As well as Slayton's less-than-welcoming words, it was soon made abundantly clear to these men that they were actually surplus to NASA's requirements. In a defiant countermove, they had soon devised and adopted the prophetic sobriquet of the ''Excess Eleven'', or ''XS-11''.
It was an eclectic, eager group of highly talented and qualified professionals who eventually made their way to a new career in Houston, little realising the enormous problems that would soon beset them.
While many honours and deserved plaudits have been heaped on America's astronauts, perhaps the most incongruous of all is one awarded to Dr. Joseph Allen: since 1984 he has enjoyed honorary membership of the Indiana Wrestling Hall of Fame. Not only that, but in 1998, Joe Allen was inducted into Oklahoma's National Wrestling Hall of Fame, as a distinguished incumbent in their Outstanding American category.
Standing at just 168 cm (five feet six inches), one would have to admit that the diminutive adventurer resembles neither a former wrestler nor an astronaut, yet he was involved in some of the most accomplished science carried out in space during his two Shuttle missions in the early 1980s, logging a total of 314 hours in space, including close to eleven hours of EVA, and participating in the only space salvage mission to date. These days, he is highly amused when reminded of his wrestling past and resultant accolades, but says the sport was good for both his physical and personal development.
''Wrestling pitted me against people my own size and it gave me a great deal of confidence,'' he stated. In high school he wrestled at 44kg, in college at 58 kg, and his win-loss record in his final two years while wrestling for the DePauw University team was 16-2. ''I don't think I was really that good a wrestler, but my team mates were remarkable. Eight of the ten of us became physicians, lawyers or PhDs.''
Joseph Percival Allen IV was born on 27 June 1937 in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Crawfordsville is a small farming and industrial town located in west central Indiana, about forty-five miles from Indianapolis. His father was Joseph III (also known as Perk) and his mother was Harriet Elizabeth (nee Taylor). They had graduated from DePauw University in 1928 and 1930 respectively, and Joseph III later became a professor on the university's staff.3 In fact, Joe Allen came from a long line of
academics associated with the university. His great-grandfather, the original Joseph Allen, did not attend college, but he grew up in Greencastle, Indiana where DePauw, founded as a teacher's college in the mid-1800s, is located. On a corner of the town square, he and his brother established and ran the Allen Brothers dry goods store, later sold to J.C. Penneys. Joe's grandfather, Joseph Jr., graduated from DePauw in 1897, followed just two years later by his great-uncle, the noted humanitarian Dr. Percy Hypes Swahlen, who was also a football letterman at the university. A rich academic heritage and a loving family environment linger as integral elements of Joe Allen's upbringing and development.4
''I was, and am, lucky in the extreme that I grew up as the older of two boys in a very caring and supportive family. Dave is my only sibling and we have always been the best of friends. My mother was the daughter of the Methodist minister in Green-castle. The Methodist church sits directly across from the office of the president of DePauw and it is an important church to the university, originally associated directly with the Methodist church. My mother and father encouraged us to pursue any discipline which intrigued us, including studies of any kind, hobbies, sports ...
anything which exercised our mind, or body, particularly if focus and discipline were required.''
Joe Allen began his academic days at the Caleb Mills School, where he undertook elementary education from 1942 to 1948. Then followed seventh and eighth grade education at Crawfordsville Junior High, and finally Crawfordsville High School, graduating with high distinction in 1955. "Actually, I was second in my class behind my good friend Nancy Wells, whose father was the physics and chemistry teacher of the high school. Mr. Wells was a wonderful teacher, and much of my later success in science I credit to him. I suspect that on our graduation day, Mr. Wells was very proud of both Nancy and me!"
Another teacher who would have a profound effect "in all subjects involving life's lessons'' was Bob Hauck, his wrestling coach. "My dream all through high school was to become a state champion, a goal I nearly accomplished in all four years of the state tournament, but never totally accomplished, to my deep disappointment. Many years later, I realised that knowing how to deal with disappointment in a gracious manner is invaluable. My failed spacewalk on STS-5 is a good example.'' He also credits teachers who were "sticklers on fundamentals'' for furthering his education and desire to succeed. "Although coming from a relatively small school in a small town, I was nonetheless well prepared in the basics when I arrived at age eighteen at the university."
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