The Wrong Stuff

"Here is how we shall go to the Moon. The pioneer expedition, fifty scientists and technicians, will take offfrom the space station's orbit in three clumsy-looking but highly efficient rocket ships.'' Dr. Wernher von Braun.1

During the first half of the twentieth century, in the fifty years preceding the dawn of the space age, the dreams of science fiction were often portrayed as the dawn of science fact. The human exploration of space was perceived to be within reach and with it, expeditions to the Moon and planets. Countless designs and proposals for human-tended space bases were suggested as the most efficient way to support an integrated exploration of space over the long term. These permanent facilities were identified as stations in space (or, more commonly, space stations) from which specialist crews could conduct Earth and astronomical observations, and which would serve as weather forecasting or communication satellites, or as a base for construction or refuelling. To achieve this, these "specialist crews" would incorporate the skills of doctors, meteorologists, engineers, chemists, biologists, physicists, astronomers, and geologists, rather than crew members with purely piloting skills. It was understood, however, that the first human explorers of space would be drawn from the military piloting community.


The true dawn of the space age occurred on 4 October 1957 with the launch of the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, by the Soviet Union. A month later, Sputnik 2 carried the first living creature into orbit - the dog Laika. It would not be long before humans followed that same hazardous pathway into the heavens and in both the Soviet Union and the United States of America, selection criteria were being debated in order to select the first groups of candidates to undergo space flight training.

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