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  Apollo 15: Mission Control and Irwin's heart issues (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Apollo 15: Mission Control and Irwin's heart issues
Fra Mauro
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posted 02-04-2014 02:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Given the cardiac event that occurred during Apollo 15 and the subsequent heart problems that James Irwin later had, I can't help but to question if Mission Control could have done things differently. Thoughts?

Michael Davis
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posted 02-04-2014 03:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Davis   Click Here to Email Michael Davis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't see what could have been done differently.

Irwin's condition was first noted after the LM was back in lunar orbit. The flight surgeons' felt that a weightless environment was possibly the best place for a cardiac patient to be since there was less stress on his heart. Plus he was on 100% oxygen and being continuously monitored.

What possible intervention could have helped? Getting him back to a high G reentry environment sooner? That would have been a poor decision to make.

I would also note that Colonel Irwin lived for another 20 years after the mission, although cardiac problems plagued him for most of his post Apollo 15 life.

Obviousman
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posted 02-05-2014 12:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Obviousman   Click Here to Email Obviousman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Agree completely.

Blackarrow
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posted 02-05-2014 05:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Davis:
What possible intervention could have helped?
Well, for a start, Mission Control could have informed the mission commander, Dave Scott, that his lunar module pilot had, in effect, suffered a minor heart attack which, had it occurred on Earth, would have resulted in NASA chief surgeon Dr. Berry placing Irwin in intensive care.

There was a pre-arranged code ("West Point") to alert Scott if an urgent private discussion was needed. Mission Control never used it.

One repercussion if Mission Control had alerted Scott was the potential impact on Al Worden's deep-space EVA to retrieve the SIM bay film cassettes. Struggling into a bulky spacesuit and assisting with Worden's EVA was not exactly the best treatment for a heart attack patient.

What would Scott have done if he had been alerted to Irwin's condition? Mission Control must have discussed the possibility that Scott would "play safe" by cancelling the EVA to protect his crewmember's life.

The film cassettes were important, but were they worth risking Irwin's life? And what if Irwin had suffered a more serious attack while leaning out of the open hatch?

Scott himself is in no doubt that if he had been informed of Irwin's heart issue, he would have had a full debate with the Flight Director and he, as field commander, would have made the final decision whether to go ahead with the EVA.

It was that very uncertainty which, I suggest, concerned Mission Control. That, I suggest, is why Scott was not told. Is there any other plausible reason why a crew health issue described by NASA's Chief Surgeon as "a serious situation" was not drawn (discreetly) to the attention of the mission commander?

This issue is discussed in Chapter 8 of "Footprints in the Dust" (Nebraska University Press, 2010).

By the way, I have seen reports that during his post-mission medicals, on the recovery ship, Irwin's blood pressure peaked at 275/125.

Henry Heatherbank
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posted 02-06-2014 04:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What if Irwin had suffered this sort of arrhythmia in late June/early July 1971, just far enough out from launch to create a concern? What happens?

Swap Irwin out for backup LMP Schmitt, who gets to the moon 18 months or so earlier, and without pressure from the scientific community to get him on to the last Apollo flight?

Or do you swap out the entire prime crew for Gordon, Brand and Schmitt? Unlikely given the medical precedent set by the Mattingly/Swigert swap on Apollo 13, and pretty hard to see "golden boy" Scott allowing that or, for that matter, being treated that way by management. You can imagine Scott reluctantly accepting the lesser of the two evils (Schmitt), as did Cernan, in order to preserve his chance at walking on the moon.

But if Schmitt had flown, then Engle presumably gets a clear shot at the moon on Apollo 17, with the added twist that Irwin is presumably permanently grounded and doesn't briefly join the Apollo 17 backup crew with Scott and Worden. So who would have become the first Apollo 17 backup LMP (Duke?), and what would have become of them once the stamp affair broke and Scott and Worden were removed from duty? If Duke, then presumably he would have stayed on the backup crew to be joined by the eventual backup CDR Young and CMP Roosa.

Just wondering.

Rusty53
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posted 02-06-2014 12:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rusty53     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't believe that it has ever been established that Jim Irwin suffered a heart attack during Apollo 15.

What has been established is that his heart went into an "abnormal" heart rhythm called bigeminy (a normal heart beat followed by a premature heart beat (PVC), a pause, another normal heart beat, another pause and so on).

Bigeminy MAY be a consequence of a heart attack but it also MAY appear during times of low magnesium and/or potassium blood levels (both Irwin and Scott had these low levels).

The presence of a bigemic heart rhythm alone is not proof of a heart attack.

Was there any post-flight evidence of a heart attack occurring during the flight?

sev8n
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posted 02-06-2014 01:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for sev8n     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
Is there any other plausible reason why a crew health issue described by NASA's Chief Surgeon as "a serious situation" was not drawn (discreetly) to the attention of the mission commander?
Which begs the question: what is the point of assigning/tasking a field commander on a mission if ground control is withholding information he needs to command the mission?

Blackarrow
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posted 02-06-2014 03:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Rusty53:
I don't believe that it has ever been established that Jim Irwin suffered a heart attack during Apollo 15....Was there any post-flight evidence of a heart attack occurring during the flight?
Let's look at Chris Kraft's account of this in his book "Flight." On the first point, he quotes Dr. Charles Berry as saying: "It's serious. If he were on Earth, I'd have him in I.C.U. being treated for a heart attack." On the second point, he writes: "Irwin's post-flight exam didn't turn up a thing. In every test his heart was normal. But something was lurking there."

Again, the unanswered question: if NASA's top doctor thought a crew-member had, in effect, had a heart attack (or something similar) why was the mission commander not notified? Kraft is silent on this point.

I have no medical training, but if it is correct (see my previous post) that Irwin recorded a blood pressure reading on the recovery ship of 275/125, that does not sit easily with Kraft's comment that "...in every test his heart was normal." For the record, my last blood pressure reading was 128/80.

moorouge
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posted 02-06-2014 03:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just a thought. How does this equate with the potassium deficiency problems encountered on Apollo 16? Isn't this a symptom of possible heart problems?

dabolton
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posted 02-06-2014 05:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton   Click Here to Email dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I thought the over-use of potassium orange juice on Apollo 16 was a result of the deficiencies on 15.

Michael Davis
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posted 02-06-2014 06:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Davis   Click Here to Email Michael Davis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As has been pointed out already, there was never any evidence that Jim Irwin suffered a heart attack during the flight of Apollo 15. He was observed to have irregular heart rhythms. Those irregularities did not return during the rest of the mission. The exhaustive post-flight medical exams also found nothing out of the ordinary.

Irwin was also an exceptionally fit man being continuously monitored by an outstanding team of flight surgeons.Those flight surgeons, along with the flight directors, made what was probably a difficult decision that Irwin was able to proceed normally with the remainder of the mission. That decision proved to be correct.

Rusty53
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posted 02-06-2014 06:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rusty53     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Exactly. But I wonder if as commander of the flight, they should have provided David Scott with the information they had?

RichieB16
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posted 02-06-2014 07:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for RichieB16   Click Here to Email RichieB16     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
On the first point, he quotes Dr. Charles Berry as saying: "It's serious. If he were on Earth, I'd have him in I.C.U. being treated for a heart attack."
Like was said before, bigeminy may or may not be a signal that a heart attack has occurred. That is all the flight surgeon knew had occurred.

Had it happened on Earth, yes they would have put him in the hospital and ran tests on him to see if he had had a heart attack. The fact that his post flight exam did not turn up any evidence of a heart attack, it's likely that he didn't have one, in my opinion.

Also, I wonder when Dr. Berry actually made that second statement, about something "lurking there." Was it immediately after the tests which showed nothing had happened... or was it months later when he actually did have an MI?

Grounded!
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posted 02-06-2014 07:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Grounded!   Click Here to Email Grounded!     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is a standard practice to hospitalize someone who presents with a set of symptoms such as Irwin's (hypertension, weakness, hyper or hypokalemia, and arrhythmia). It is also an accepted practice to treat certain patients as if he/she were having a heart attack (with blood thinners, meds to control b/p and heart rate, etc.) until it can be proven otherwise.

Was Dr. Berry saying that he had a heart attack? Maybe, maybe not.

OWL
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posted 02-07-2014 01:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for OWL   Click Here to Email OWL     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When film is shown in mission control of the astronauts heart monitors, there always seems to be four readouts on the screen rather than three.

Are my eyes deceiving me or can anyone shed any light on this please?

alanh_7
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posted 02-07-2014 07:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had a chance a few years ago to talk to Dave Scott about Jim Irwin. He had nothing but praise for him as a crewmate, and then I asked him if he thought Irwin's heart issues later in life had been caused by the moonwalk. Without hesitation Dave Scott said "It is not something you will hear NASA say officially, but yes I suspect it was."

I recall at the time, being surprised at his certainty of the issue.

Obviousman
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posted 02-07-2014 02:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Obviousman   Click Here to Email Obviousman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Do you think he meant the exertion of the EVAs, or the lunar environment?

I think the former, myself.

mode1charlie
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posted 02-07-2014 03:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mode1charlie   Click Here to Email mode1charlie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by alanh_7:
I asked [Scott] if he thought Irwin's heart issues later in life had been caused by the moonwalk. Without hesitation Dave Scott said "It is not something you will hear NASA say officially, but yes I suspect it was."
By what mechanism would that happen? The exertion of the EVAs, the pure oxygen environment, or what? I'm no cardiologist, but it would seem to me that unless exertion is pushed too far it doesn't create heart problems. It can certainly exacerbate pre-existing conditions, though.

alanh_7
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posted 02-07-2014 03:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Al Worden's and Francis French's book "Falling to Earth" go into the details regarding the concerns of mission control over both Dave Scott's and Jim Irwin's exertions during their moonwalks better than I could. But there was a very real concern by mission control or so it seems, regarding their heart monitor readings during their walks, Irwin's in particular.

They did not give the reasoning but mission control asked Irwin, and I think Scott as well, to keep their heart monitors on for their return home. But as I said, the book "Falling to Earth" goes into this in more detail.

On edit: If I recall the risk was over exertion and potassium loss, which may cause issues. If I recall, Irwin had a stuck drink tube and that combined with excessive exertion, which may have caused the problems. It was one of the reasons why the Apollo 16 crew was asked to load up on potassium laced drinks.

dabolton
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posted 02-07-2014 11:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton   Click Here to Email dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Has Scott had any heart issues since the moonwalks that could be attributed to it?

Blackarrow
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posted 02-08-2014 05:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Davis:
Irwin was also an exceptionally fit man being continuously monitored by an outstanding team of flight surgeons. Those flight surgeons, along with the flight directors, made what was probably a difficult decision that Irwin was able to proceed normally with the remainder of the mission. That decision proved to be correct.
You are arguing with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight knowledge that simply wasn't available at the crucial time. If you bet your house on the throw of a dice and won, you could say your decision was correct, but what if you lost?

It is irrelevant what was concluded AFTER the mission. During the mission, Dr. Berry would have treated Irwin as if he had suffered a heart attack. Berry's concerns are recorded in the accounts by Chris Kraft and Gene Kranz.

You state that the doctors and flight directors made "a difficult decision that Irwin was able to proceed normally with the remainder of the mission." That decision definitely should have been made in consultation with the mission commander. I have already suggested in my first post why Scott was probably not made aware of the problem.

By the way, it is not correct that Irwin's heart was "continuously monitored" after the problem in lunar orbit. Crew members did not wear their heart monitors on a permanent basis (it irritated the skin and was uncomfortable when worn for long periods). Irwin took the monitoring equipment off at times after the anomaly, and since the crew had not been made aware of the anomaly, there was no reason for Irwin to wear the monitoring equipment all the time.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-08-2014 05:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
During the mission, Dr. Berry would have treated Irwin as if he had suffered a heart attack. Berry's concerns are recorded in the accounts by Chris Kraft and Gene Kranz.
Berry clearly did not treat Irwin as if he was having a heart attack. He and the other flight surgeons chose to keep Irwin's condition private as it was unfolding. If they felt he was suffering a heart attack, I strongly doubt that they would have stayed quiet.

Instead, per Kranz, Berry waited until afterwards to inform Lunney (and Kranz) of the situation.

Berry (and the other flight surgeons) could have called an end to the third EVA, or as Kranz writes, could have at least had Lunney give the crew an extra rest period. He didn't, which speaks volumes.

Michael Davis
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posted 02-09-2014 08:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Davis   Click Here to Email Michael Davis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
You are arguing with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight knowledge that simply wasn't available at the crucial time.
Actually I am not. I am stating what was known at the time of the mission. Irwin was a 41 year old Colonel in the Air Force who had passed exhaustive physical testing in order to become an astronaut. He had of course never displayed any signs of a heart condition prior to the flight of Apollo 15.

During a particular grueling day he went through a combination of an EVA, a preparation for and return to lunar orbit, and a problematic docking with the CM. Also during that period he displayed an irregular heart beat. That irregularity went away with rest.There was never any indication during the flight that Irwin suffered a myocardial infarction (heart attack).

And Irwin and Scott were in fact monitored continuously. The flight surgeons requested that they continue to wear their monitors for the rest of the mission as a precaution. Skin irritation aside.

A very experienced team of flight surgeons were monitoring all of this and made the determination that it was not serious enough to alter the mission. The mission continued as planned and Irwin displayed no further symptoms of a heart condition. These are facts and on the record as told in hundreds of sources you can readily research.

Most of the remainder of this thread is 20-20 hindsight. For instance, knowing that Irwin would suffer a heart attack 2 years after the Apollo 15 mission might have altered the decision of the flight surgeons.

As for Chris Kraft's "I'd have him in an ICU" quote, that was a passing comment in a book written 30 years after Apollo 15. I have never seen any reference to that level of concern in any other source. Accepting that statement as completely accurate really would be conjecture in my opinion. The legal term is hearsay. If Charles Berry, or any of the other flight surgeons, had recorded those sentiments, my opinion would change.

Blackarrow
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posted 02-09-2014 08:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Berry (and the other flight surgeons) could have called an end to the third EVA, or as Kranz writes, could have at least had Lunney give the crew an extra rest period. He didn't, which speaks volumes.
Robert, I'm not going to debate the finer points of cardiology with you (or anyone). I am not a doctor and I assume you are not medically trained.

However, I refer you to NASA SP-368 ("Biomedical Results of Apollo") which gives an account of this issue at pp 71-73. Jim Irwin did not display any heart irregularities during his time on the Moon which were any different to irregularities noted during his training on Earth, and even once 41 minutes before launch. There was no reason for Dr. Berry to advise any curtailment of the third EVA.

The cardiac event at 179:07 GET (in lunar orbit) was far more significant. If you, or others, choose not to believe Chris Kraft when he quotes Dr. Berry ("It's serious. If he were on Earth I'd have him in ICU being treated for a heart attack") then that's a matter for you.

You argue that Berry didn't treat Irwin as if he was having a heart attack and chose to keep Irwin's condition private. Apart from the obvious fact that his "patient" was a quarter of a million miles away, it was not up to Berry to make decisions, merely to advise and warn. This he did.

But it was ultimately the Flight Director's responsibility to make decisions. It is clear that all the senior NASA personnel were "in the loop": Lunney (outgoing FD); Kranz (incoming FD); Slayton, Kraft and Gilruth. Whatever decisions were made, whatever reasoning was employed, the one thing they certainly should have done was to inform the mission commander.

All three crew-members were quite clear about that after the mission. See for instance "Falling to Earth" by Al Worden with Francis French (at page 206: "...the ground should have told Dave. As commander he needed all available information about his crew." Disagree with me if you want, but Al Worden actually flew on the mission.

Which brings us back again to the key question: why did they not tell Scott something he clearly ought to have been made aware of?

Blackarrow
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posted 02-09-2014 09:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Davis:
And Irwin and Scott were in fact monitored continuously. The flight surgeons requested that they continue to wear their monitors for the rest of the mission as a precaution. Skin irritation aside.

A very experienced team of flight surgeons were monitoring all of this and made the determination that it was not serious enough to alter the mission. The mission continued as planned and Irwin displayed no further symptoms of a heart condition. These are facts and on the record as told in hundreds of sources you can readily research...


You're wrong. The Apollo 15 Flight Plan clearly shows that no crew-member was expected to wear the biomed sensors all the time. Since Mission Control didn't want to tell Scott about Irwin's heart problem (and by the way it was far more than a simple "heart irregularity") how could they insist on a deviation from the Flight Plan by making Irwin wear his sensors all the time? That would have required an explanation.

If you check the Apollo 15 Flight Journal, you will find that Irwin was "off sensors" and therefore NOT being monitored on several occasions between the problem in orbit and Worden's EVA. For instance, at 193:13:51 GET Scott asked Houston to allow Irwin to take a break from wearing the sensors. Houston agreed. Remarks at 197:53:01 show that Irwin was clearly "off sensors."

Again, at 214:56:36 Houston asked Irwin to put on the sensors "as per the Flight Plan" so they had clearly been off. Later, at 229:30:00 the transcript shows that only Worden was wearing sensors (and this tallies with the Flight Plan).

During the sleep period before Worden's EVA, Irwin was off the sensors. All wore them during the EVA.

There is an interesting remark at 248:24:37 GET when Capcom stated: "...as far as the medics are concerned, it's 'dealer's choice' on who wears the biomed tonight." As the Flight Plan called for Irwin to wear the biomed sensors during the following sleep period, the crew stuck to the Flight Plan. The transcript records at 249:19:15 GET "Irwin dons biomed", so clearly he was not being monitored for some time before that.

Bottom line: Irwin was NOT monitored continuously after the bigeminy concerns. If he had had further bigeminy attacks during those "gaps" Houston would not have known. For all we (or Houston) know, perhaps he did. Of course, if Houston had told Scott about the bigeminy issue, Scott would almost certainly have had Irwin on the biomed sensors all the way back. But would he have risked Irwin's life for the sake of retrieving the SIM - bay film?

moorouge
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posted 02-10-2014 03:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Isn't this making a mountain out of what, at the time, was merely a molehill?

The Apollo 15 post flight medical report makes no mention of any heart related problems.

As far as Irwin is concerned it says that he suffered a sensation of head fullness for three days and slight giddiness. His heart rates were noticably higher whilst carrying out tasks on the lunar surface.

The only medication taken on the flight were 14 aspirin taken by Scott to relieve the pain in his right shoulder and some nose drops used by Worden prior to re-entry.

From this, it would seem that any great concerns about a possible heart attack suffered by Irwin came much later and not at the time when the immediate post flight reports were written.

Blackarrow
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posted 02-10-2014 07:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Eddie, it could hardly be called a "molehill" if NASA's chief medical officer was telling the Flight Director what Chris Kraft has reported. I can't access the medical report to which you refer, but I recommend you to look at "Biomedical Results of Apollo" (NASA SP 368). Pages 71-73 detail the heart problems on Apollo 15. The post-flight medical report mentioned by you may have been what you would call a "lie for children."

Bottom line: all the original post asked was whether Mission Control could have done things differently. The answer is undoubtedly YES: Mission Control should have told the mission commander. Scott was absolutely entitled to know what had happened, and to discuss and consider the implications.

Michael Davis
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posted 02-10-2014 12:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Davis   Click Here to Email Michael Davis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
If you check the Apollo 15 Flight Journal, you will find that Irwin was "off sensors" and therefore NOT being monitored on several occasions between the problem in orbit and Worden's EVA. For instance, at 193:13:51 GET Scott asked Houston to allow Irwin to take a break from wearing the sensors. Houston agreed. Remarks at 197:53:01 show that Irwin was clearly "off sensors."
Thank you for that correction. I will change my words from "monitored continuously" to "monitored nearly continuously."

moorouge
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posted 02-10-2014 12:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Geoffrey - far be for me to disagree with you. However, having read the passage you refer to I note that the report also cites that Irwin did not display any of the usual symptoms of a heart attack, i.e. no palpitations, chest pains and that he was unaware of any problem.

Of interest is that it says also that Scott displayed similar heart irregularities to Irwin, albeit briefly.

The report concludes that a most likely cause was potassium deficiency coupled with stress.

What we really need is expert advice on what actually constitutes a 'heart attack'. I can remember showing my doctor some ECG traces of Cooper in the final Mercury missions report. He said, "Oh! He had a heart attack. The p-wave is missing." It didn't seem to affect Cooper on his flight. Similarly, Irwin's problem didn't seem to affect him on Apollo 15.

Blackarrow
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posted 02-10-2014 04:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Eddie, disagree by all means, but try not to stray from the key question. I can't offer you a medical opinion on Jim Irwin's heart status, but if you're the Flight Director whose chief medical officer comes to you and tells you one of your crew is suffering symptoms which, had he been on Earth, would cause you to put him in ICU and treat him for a heart attack, what do you do?

Maybe a lot of things, but the one thing you must do is tell the mission commander. He has a right to know, because he needs to know how the issue might impact on overall crew safety.

fredtrav
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posted 02-10-2014 04:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One small thing, but how do we know that Kraft's recollection is accurate. It was written about 30 years after the events. Other biographies have had facts "misremembered".

moorouge
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posted 02-11-2014 01:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
Maybe a lot of things, but the one thing you must do is tell the mission commander. He has a right to know, because he needs to know how the issue might impact on overall crew safety.

Even if he has displayed the same symptoms? Isn't the key to this is when did Berry actually make his comment and in what context?

Since neither Irwin or Scott were displaying no other indications might not the comment have been made to mean in an ideal situation we'd investigate further, but since the crew are functioning normally we'll let it pass and just monitor it. No need to alarm anyone. As the report says, Irwin was unaware that he had a heart beat irregularity.

On edit - what did other doctors make of Irwin's heart irregularity? Was Berry's comment an over-reaction? The only other precident is Slayton's heart condition. Then there was heated disagreement amongst the medical specialists as to how serious it was. Isn't it the case that there is a huge difference between a heart irregularity and a full blown heart attack?

cycleroadie
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posted 02-11-2014 06:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cycleroadie   Click Here to Email cycleroadie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Blackarrow:
I have no medical training, but if it is correct (see my previous post) that Irwin recorded a blood pressure reading on the recovery ship of 275/125, that does not sit easily with Kraft's comment that "...in every test his heart was normal."
It is quite possible to have high BP and have no heart issues. I have hypertension, was recently hospitalized for it (first I found out about it), and I topped out at 202/102. They gave me a number of tests, an Echo cardiogram, a stress test, and so on, and no heart issues, just hypertension. Now on medication (and exercising more, and cut salt down) I usually am running in the 120s/70s. So Kraft's statement that his heart tested normal could be spot on.

Fra Mauro
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posted 02-11-2014 11:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Many factors come into play here — including the fact that perhaps the medical opinion wasn't totally trusted especially after the decision to bump Mattingly off Apollo 13. What would have been the repercussions if an EVA had been cancelled?

I feel that Scott should have been told on a private channel.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-11-2014 11:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Correct me if I am wrong, but I don't believe Apollo had private two-way channels.

The crew could downlink semi-private messages in their recorded voice tape "dumps" (as the Apollo 8 crew did to relay that Borman had fallen ill) but the ground had no way to contact the crew privately.

MCroft04
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posted 02-11-2014 04:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The original question was whether mission control could have done anything differently. Good discussion but I agree with Geoffrey; seems like the commander should have been told.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-11-2014 04:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An additional thought to my last point: if there were no private channels by which the ground could let Scott know, then choosing to tell him would have meant also telling the press (as the media was listening in to the space-to-ground loop).

That might have been an added consideration, if for no other reason than a desire to protect Irwin's (medical) privacy.

Blackarrow
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posted 02-11-2014 05:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Correct me if I am wrong, but I don't believe Apollo had private two-way channels.
Robert, I don't know about other Apollo missions, but on Apollo 15 there was definitely a "private loop" allowing Dave Scott to speak directly and privately with the Flight Director. If Scott spoke the code-words "West Point", the private loop would have been opened by Houston. The Flight Director could always open the private loop as required. The point is, Houston never used it and Scott didn't know there was any need to. (See "Footprints in the Dust, Ch. 8 p. 264)

This also covers your second post.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-11-2014 05:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Okay, I stand corrected (a bit more reading shows that on Apollo 8, for example, that after the crew alerted the ground to Borman falling ill via the voice tape dump that Mission Control called back on a special frequency "private loop" to ask more questions about Borman's condition.

Making Irwin's condition public may have still been a concern, as NASA pledged to the media to summarize any private calls to the crew, but that summary could have likely been kept vague enough to not be a factor in the decision.

moorouge
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posted 02-12-2014 06:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Apologies to Geoffrey (Blackarrow) for acting as devil's advocate, but a couple of questions.
  1. Who were the flight surgeons on Apollo 15? Wouldn't it have been their call rather than Berry's? Wouldn't this make Berry's comment just that, something to note but not act on? What I'm trying to suggest is that if the flight surgeons were unconcerned, then the question of whether to tell Scott doesn't arise.

  2. Wasn't it correct that post flight examinations revealed that Irwin was suffering from hypokalemia? This is a well documented cause of irregular heart beats.
On edit - of interest in relation to this discussion is an entry in the 'DoctorZebra' website about Irwin that the irregularity of his heart beat was later to be put down to undetected coronary artery disease. When was this detected?


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