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  Yeager would've been a fine astronaut

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Author Topic:   Yeager would've been a fine astronaut
karlitko
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posted 11-02-2006 04:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for karlitko   Click Here to Email karlitko     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the Huntsville Times:
The first man to break the sound barrier would have made a fine astronaut, a Marshall Space Flight Center veteran of the early space program said during a NASA history talk Sunday.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager was one of the Air Force's most experienced fighter and test pilots when the first astronauts were chosen in 1957, but couldn't go on to be an astronaut because he didn't have a college degree, said Ed Buckbee, former director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and the public affairs officer who supported Dr. Wernher von Braun during the Mercury and Apollo programs.

"I think he would have been a premier astronaut," Buckbee said Sunday afternoon during a space history talk sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the UAH Tom Bevill Conference Center and Hotel. "But the qualifications of the time kept him out of that field."

collocation
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posted 11-02-2006 08:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for collocation   Click Here to Email collocation     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
May not be the truth, but several books have indicated that John Glenn did not have a degree as well at the point of him being selected.

mjanovec
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posted 11-02-2006 09:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think there will be a lot of people who disagree with the assertion that Yeager would have been a fine astronaut.

On his website, Robert Smith outlines Yeager's flights in the NF-104 and goes on to describe why he believes that Yeager crashed. He feels that while Chuck had a great feel for an aircraft in the realm of flight within the atmosphere, he was out of his element where the air was thin enough to require use of the RCS. Also, he points out Yeager's stubbornness to accept advice or direction from anyone who told him how to fly the aircraft, even though he was consistently not flying the correct profile for each "zoom." He kept missing the correct angle of attack on each flight which kept him from hitting the target altitude. This contributed to his crash, since he ended up putting the aircraft in an altitude where the control surfaces were ineffective, but there was still too much air to allow the RCS have the desired effect. As such, the plane went into a spin which was unrecoverable.

The early astronauts needed to be good engineers along with being good stick and rudder pilots. Yeager was excellent with the later, but when it came to engineering abilities, he was lacking in that area. The Mercury Seven proved there was more to spaceflight than strapping in the capsule and going for a ride. A great deal of engineering input was made by the astronauts directly in order to make that program a success. Yeager simply didn't have the background to compete in that area.

I don't mean to take anything away from Yeager's fine accomplishments. His place in history is secure. Ironically, I just don't think he had the "right stuff" to be an astronaut.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 11-02-2006 11:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is one of those articles that betrays a complete mis-understanding of the role of the early astronauts, and of Yeager himself.

Of course he could have flown the missions. They could have been flown by any of a hundred test pilots -- perhaps several hundred.

But the Mercury astronauts were selected not just for flying ability, but for their potential contributions to engineering development. (This was one of the reasons NASA originally looked for a minimum of six astronauts, rather than the three the flight program justified.... there were six primary technical area requiring pilot input.)

Glenn and Carpenter had not received formal degrees -- in Carpenter's case, because he missed one class on his last day of college, or something like that -- but both had received college-level educations, and both had attended the Naval Test Pilot School.

Yeager was a high-school graduate whose technical training, however excellent at the hands of engineers like Jack Ridley, was nevertheless spotty. Why put someone like him in a working group where he would not know the languages, equations or processes... when you had other pilots who were ready?

KC Stoever
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posted 11-02-2006 05:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Michael nails the issues here. On Yeager too. The legendary air force pilot could easily have flown the missions and would have trained hard and well. But NASA was looking for engineer-astronauts to collaborate with the Caldwell Johnsons and Max Fagets at NASA.

The difficulty for the 1959 selection board was its need to find astronauts quickly and then to move them with dispatch into the engineering work at Langley and elsewhere.

They therefore established seven criteria, designed to produce a manageable pool of qualified candidates that they could test and select in manageable period of time (three or four months).

They ended up with about 110 men and in the end could choose only seven. I think 18 candidates were recommended without medical reservation of the 31 who passed the subsequent biomedical and psych evaluations.

In addition, you can see on the original memo that the college degree criterion has an asterisk ("or its equivalent"). Why?

A lot of gifted Project Mercury candidates had undergraduate careers disrupted or shortened by World War II. NASA therefore used its judgment when assessing academic records and the standardized testing tools used during Phase II of the selection process to identify engineering talent and IQ.

Glenn and Carpenter tested in the superior range for engineering knowledge and skill. Their service records and other accomplishments and duties only confirmed what the standardized tests showed.

A really good book remains to be written about the selection process for the early astronaut groups. I tried in the one chapter I had. Bob Voas says I STILL didn't get it quite right!

FFrench
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posted 11-02-2006 05:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by KC Stoever:
A really good book remains to be written about the selection process for the early astronaut groups. I tried in the one chapter I had.
I'd say that your book is by far the clearest and most understandable account of the testing that I have come across, Kris. I learned a lot.

KC Stoever
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posted 11-02-2006 06:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Francis, thanks. I'll tell Dr. Voas.

Seriously, do you want to take a stab at writing this book? Lots of science and politics. It would be fun. C'mon!

FFrench
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posted 11-02-2006 06:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's certainly a book that needs to be written. Having just worked with Colin on a book that incorporates first-hand, original recollections of Schirra, Cooper and Carpenter of that selection process (plus does some original research into why women were not part of the selection possibilities at that time) it may be that I've said my piece on the subject for now.

But nevertheless you've just made my day by thinking I'd be up to the task of writing such a book - thanks!

KC Stoever
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posted 11-02-2006 07:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looking forward to the book -- especially re: the women, who are fascinating.

Back on topic, just noticed the fact error in the news report cited upthread, saying the Project Mercury astronauts were selected in 1957.

As everyone here knows, it was April 9, 1959.

cfreeze79
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posted 11-02-2006 10:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cfreeze79   Click Here to Email cfreeze79     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
But, did Yeager even try out for the program? Seriously, my understanding of the Yeager=astronaut issue has been that it never really mattered to anyone until after "The Right Stuff" was published.

Or am I wrong? Did Yeager even try to become an astronaut? It was on a volunteer basis, right?

KC Stoever
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posted 11-03-2006 12:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cfreeze79:
But, did Yeager even try out for the program?
No. Yeager could not try out for Project Mercury because he was considered ineligible. See Phase 1 criteria, THIS NEW OCEAN, page 131.
quote:
Seriously, my understanding of the Yeager=astronaut issue has been that it never really mattered to anyone until after "The Right Stuff" was published.
Whether it mattered to Yeager is a question for Yeager. Seriously, someone should ask him.

My sense is that, for most of the military pilots who knew about Project Mercury, just getting chosen to participate in the selection process mattered a great deal--well before a certain book was published. Just my opinion.

quote:
It was on a volunteer basis, right?
Yes and no. First candidates were identified as eligible (Phase 1 -- 110 men). Then candidates were invited to the Pentagon and briefed and asked if they were willing to volunteer (Phase 2 -- 69 men). Phases 3, 4, and 5 winnowed volunteers from Phase 2 down to the chosen (32, to 18, to 7).

Yeager was never in the scrum. Why?

See the Phase 1 criteria.

[on edit: Thought to add, because I'm not sure many realize this, but after Phase 1 produced its pool of eligible candidates, those men were ordered to report to the Pentagon. Carpenter's orders, for example, came directly from the Chief of Naval Operations, with no explanation, no apologies.

The bracing effect of such orders illustrates was the cold, calculated beauty of Eisenhower's dictum: "Use military test pilots. They're accustomed to following orders." Boy, are they ever.

Note too that none of the candidates prepared for the selection: no training,no dieting, no conditioning, no cramming for exams. They were expected to be fit. And they were.]

Michael Cassutt
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posted 11-03-2006 09:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As Kris notes, Yeager was ineligible for consideration for Mercury. Further, he was too old for subsequent selections.

His views on Mercury have been widely-reported as skeptically-amused at the time -- the whole business about having to clean the monkey do off the seat -- a statement that reportedly made the rounds at Edwards (and likely did not originate with Yeager, who was stationed in Europe, I believe).

Whatever his earlier views, he later came to appreciate the challenge of being an astronaut: from 1962 to 1966 he was commandant of the Aerospace Research Pilot School, and not only trained NASA astronauts like Scott, Bassett et al., but actually picked the first MOL group -- at least identified the 15 original candidates for it.

dractr
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posted 11-26-2010 09:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dractr   Click Here to Email dractr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yeager was a great pilot but he never got the concept of space flight because he was trying to fly it like it was still an airplane instead of a space plane. And he wouldn't listen to the instructors on how to fly the NF-104 to get max apogee out of the NF-104, that mistake is what caused him to mishandle NF-104 762 before it crashed.

Yeager never completed the AST program and also the only flight record he never got was the highest attained altitude buy a single engine jet.

quote:
Originally posted by cfreeze79:
Did Yeager even try to become an astronaut?
Yeager was in the AST program and was in charge of the test pilots school. Yea, he tried out for astronaut training but didn't finish because of the NF-104 crash incident.

dractr
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posted 11-26-2010 09:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dractr   Click Here to Email dractr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by KC Stoever:
A really good book remains to be written about the selection process for the early astronaut groups.
You will have your hands full with the politics of the AST program. I had some problems myself while working with these people that were trying to fight the open checkbook that the program had because they thought NASA (NACA) was doing a better version of training than the Air Force was doing. It was because of the amount of money they could get for research and development, they didn't want the test pilots school to be able to show that they could do the same job a lot cheaper than NASA can.

I was a crew chief on NF-104 760 and 756 and worked with a lot of the last people that were there in 1971 when 756 was damaged in flight of a rocket oxidizer pump explosion. I was the crew chief that day and the program disappeared real quick after that day -- and nobody could say anything.

onesmallstep
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posted 11-29-2010 02:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fifty years on, the history of the early Astronauts and Cosmonauts still fascinates because of the many 'unknowns' facing NASA and the Soviets in choosing and training spaceflight candidates. I wonder if the higher-ups in Moscow also thought that race car drivers or human cannonballs would make good cosmonauts? In any event, the selection of experienced test pilots/engineers showed the wisdom of going with people who would work with NASA and contractor engineers in designing and flying the best possible spacecraft-unlike in the USSR, where the cosmonauts were 'spam in a can' along for the ride (I'm sure you know of the override controls in Vostok, locked and meant to be opened only on orders from ground control).

As for Yeager, although he made a significant contribution during the X-1 and later test programs, even if he did qualify and go in for an interview, would his well-known blunt opinions and personality have been a good fit at NASA? Even after Scott Crossfield's death, he made some remarks that were not well-received.

All this shows that the 'Original 7' were unique in their own way, and the flights they made grow more impressive with each passing decade. On a personal note, I met Kris' father at a signing with Charlie Duke, and was honored to meet him and shake his hand as a true pioneer of spaceflight-not bad for a former P2V Neptune prop pilot!...

mjanovec
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posted 11-29-2010 04:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by onesmallstep:
As for Yeager, although he made a significant contribution during the X-1 and later test programs, even if he did qualify and go in for an interview, would his well-known blunt opinions and personality have been a good fit at NASA?

I don't think blunt opinions and forceful personalities were necessarily a limiting factor for astronauts in the early day. Some of the best early astronauts (Frank Borman comes to mind) had very blunt opinions and no-nonsense approaches to their job.

The key, however, is having a willingness to learn new systems and accept new flight regimes. Yeager's crash in the NF-104 demonstrates that he often didn't take directions well and had little interest in being told how to fly...even in flight regimes where normal stick and rudder skills do not apply. Also, Yeager's attitude towards NACA (and later NASA) was always very negative. I think Yeager would have been a very poor fit for NASA. And I suspect Yeager would tell you that NASA would have been a very poor fit for him.

Simply put, Yeager was an Air Force pilot who belonged in the Air Force.

Delta7
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posted 11-29-2010 05:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"Houston, Tranquility Base here. We landed in a holler; now let's grab some #@%&* rocks n dirt and get the &*$# outta here!"

Yeager's words as he becomes the first man to set foot on the moon:

"(grunt) ... %&$*! ... nuthin' but dust! Just like Edwards, 'cept there ain't no Happy Bottom Ridin' Club!"

machbusterman
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posted 11-30-2010 01:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for machbusterman   Click Here to Email machbusterman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
PMSL.... that's classic!!!

ilbasso
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posted 11-30-2010 09:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Think how much harder it would be to get an autograph through his current business manager...

machbusterman
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posted 12-01-2010 05:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for machbusterman   Click Here to Email machbusterman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's now a $100 minimum donation per item if you send your own items in (which going on previous reports on various forums is not without risk!).

Jay Chladek
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posted 12-02-2010 03:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is a difference between "blunt" and stubborn. Many astronauts have been blunt without necessarily being stubborn. John Young was blunt (he didn't seem to get stubborn until after Challenger), Borman was blunt, but he still listened to those around him. Walter Cunningham is also blunt.

Yeager though, based on what I have read and talking to people who have known him seemed to be just stubborn and too set in his ways. Jack Ridley seemed to be the one who could talk to him since he could speak in language and terms Yeager undersood. If anything, Ridley's contributions to supersonic flight and early testing have been largely forgotten when in many ways, he came up with solutions that nobody else did.

Yeager did have a high school level education, but while it seemed to be good enough to get him fighter pilot training, it seemed a bit lacking in spots. One of my friends has worked in Air Force circles a long time and worked under commanders who dealt with Yeager when he was still active duty Air Force as a Brig. General. Yeager depended on his aides BIG TIME since he didn't like doing paperwork and apparently had hand writing that needed a bit of decyphering. So like Radar in MASH who would push papers in front of Col. Blake, the aides would draw up the orders and have Yeager just sign them. I don't think Chuck would have done all that well as an astronaut, even if he had been selected. Not to mention he didn't seem to like civilian engineering test pilots all that much, even if they were ex-military.

onesmallstep
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posted 12-02-2010 04:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
...he didn't seem to like civilian engineering test pilots all that much, even if they were ex-military.
Which explains his attitude towards Scott Crossfield, before and after his death. Again, you can be humble (or not) or a team player (or lone wolf), and make the career you want. I guess Yeager never attempted to complete a degree in engineering, despite having excellent 'tutors' in Jack Ridley and others.

I find it telling that Yeager was not among the groups of pilots chosen in 1957 and 1958 for the Air Force's 'Man in Space Soonest' (MISS) program. That program, which would have used a Thor and later Atlas rocket to launch a capsule, was canceled in favor of Project Mercury. Ironically, all but two of the MISS 'astronauts' were chosen and flew on the X-15 test program-including Crossfield.

capoetc
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posted 12-02-2010 07:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by onesmallstep:
I find it telling that Yeager was not among the groups of pilots chosen in 1957 and 1958 for the Air Force's 'Man in Space Soonest' (MISS) program.
Really? And I said I was going to stay out of this. But I just can't stand it.

Yeager was WAAAYYY too senior to be considered for MISS. White and Kincheloe were both AF Captains in the '57 class; Peterson was a Navy Lt Cmdr (equivalent to AF Major) and Rushworth, I think, was an AF Major at the time (EDIT: Since he left active duty and then returned, he was a Captain at the time -- pinned on Major in 1962).

Yeager at that time was a Lieutenant Colonel completing a 3-year squadron command in Germany (F-86H's), and in 1957 he was headed to George AFB to command the 1st Tac Fighter Squadron (F-100D's). After that he attended Air War College (AWC) in residence at Montgomery AL (Maxwell AFB), a prerequisite for pinning on Colonel. After AWC he became the first Commandant of the USAF Aerospace Research Pilots' School (ARPS).

It would have been highly irregular to remove a sitting squadron commander for a program like MISS. Maybe if he left the AF to get hired by NACA or North American ... all the pilots for MISS except White, Kincheloe, Peterson, and Rushworth were NACA and NAA.

Saying Yeager was not selected for MISS is "telling" of anything is like saying it is "telling" that John Glenn was not selected to command a space shuttle mission.

Ok, I'm out.

onesmallstep
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posted 12-03-2010 04:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, you should stick around, if only to make the conversation more interesting. By 'telling', I meant to say if the AF was selecting only its very best pilots for MISS; by '57, Yeager would have been only in his mid-30's (certainly not 'over the hill'), and there is precedent in the Shuttle program for choosing Navy Commanders and AF/Marine Lt. Cols. (with the wait times for a first shuttle flight, they would have eventually made full Cols. or Navy Capts.)

Besides, when MISS was canceled, there was the prospect of continuing on to the X-15, if Yeager was so inclined. Of course, being an ex-combat pilot must have figured into his career route that took him to the War College, squadron command during Vietnam and even a detour in Pakistan in 1971-73 during its conflict with India. So, no dissrespect meant to Yeager or his service, just postulating on his entry into the NASA astronaut corps, as is the goal of this thread.

Oh, and if Glenn had decided to stay in NASA and eventually command a shuttle mission, I hope he (and the Astronaut Office head) would have picked another 'senior' astronaut like himself as a member of his crew- maybe one of the women volunteer trainees from the 'Mercury 13' group-just to prove him wrong on his opposition to women astronauts in the early '60's..but that's another topic.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 12-03-2010 06:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
John (capotec) is correct on this subject; I would add that in addition to being too senior, the real impediment to Yeager's involvement in MISS was that he was no longer in test ops at Edwards.

And here I'm compelled to ask, what MISS "selection"? In June 1958, the Air Force conducted a series of medical tests on test pilots already assigned to Edwards test ops to establish a set of baselines for potential MISS astronauts. There was no application, no board, no set of requirements, no schedule, nothing that would make this process a "selection".

Further, Charles Berry, then a USAF flight surgeon working these same baseline tests, told me years ago that the MISS astronauts wouldn't necessarily have been test pilots, but rather "testers" like the Man High trio (Kittinger, Simons, McClure).

Lou Chinal
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posted 12-05-2010 01:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cfreeze79:
But, did Yeager even try out for the program?
My understanding is that there were 508 test pilots that met the basic criteria. 508 is a lot of people to interview. Let's call the guys from air bases near Washington first. That's where the number 110 came in. Hey we got 18 guys that passed with no problems - why interview anyone else?

Yeager was not in the first batch of 110, end of story.

Skylon
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posted 12-05-2010 04:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by onesmallstep:
there is precedent in the Shuttle program for choosing Navy Commanders and AF/Marine Lt. Cols. (with the wait times for a first shuttle flight, they would have eventually made full Cols. or Navy Capts.)
You can't really use the Shuttle example as precedent. It hadn't happened yet.

Not that I disagree with you in terms of rank. John Glenn was older than Yeager when it came to the Mercury selection. And MISS was in 1957, when Yeager was 34. Several of the MISS candidates were older than him.

There were other factors why Yeager was ultimately not chosen for either program.

quote:
Oh, and if Glenn had decided to stay in NASA and eventually command a shuttle mission, I hope he (and the Astronaut Office head) would have picked another 'senior' astronaut like himself as a member of his crew
John Glenn would have been 60 years old when STS-1 flew. Deke Slayton, three years Glenn's junior learned quickly nobody was interested in flying him as a Shuttle CDR. Further, I know there's lots of "I wish this Astronaut who is 65 would get another flight," but other than the John Glenn PR stunt of 1998, no U.S. Astronaut, aside from Story Musgrave has flown at above the age of 60 (he was 61 on STS-80). And it was made clear to Musgrave that it would be his last flight before it even flew.

onesmallstep
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posted 12-06-2010 05:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Cassutt:
...the MISS astronauts wouldn't necessarily have been test pilots, but rather 'testers' like the High Man trio.
Wow! That would have really been a quick crash program - no input from any potential pilots/engineers (if selected) doing the actual flights. At least they would have been more than qualified than the women Cosmonauts chosen in the early '60s for the flight of Vostok 6.
quote:
Originally posted by Skylon:
I know there's lots of 'I wish this Astronaut who is 65 would get another flight'
Maybe I put the smilie at the end of my post half seriously, half in jest, but if Dr. Anna Fisher is technically on the 'active list', in good health, and willing to live 3-4 months on the space station, why not? (Not up to me, of course.)

If Glenn's second spaceflight was a PR stunt with only the echo of real bioscience research, then a flight by Fisher (or another 'senior'-in age- male/female astronaut) would be perfect to begin to establish some baseline for bone loss/geriatric research or other studies.

I know Barbara Morgan was in her late '50s when she went up two years ago, but it would be meaningful to compare it to a long-duration mission. Disclaimer: I just turned 52, so maybe I'm biased towards the 'old folks' more than the youngin's are...

Skylon
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posted 12-06-2010 08:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm not trying to sound biased. I don't think being over 60 should disqualify any active astronaut from space flight, so long as you can pass the physical and show yourself up to handling the training and all that for a space flight. However, history shows NASA clearly feels differently if Story Musgrave was told he could consider his days of flying in space over after STS-80.

You wouldn't get the same baseline with Fisher. First of all, she'd be flying to ISS, meaning a long duration mission... radically different from Glenn's short shuttle flight. Secondly, if you flew her now she'd be 17 years younger than Glenn was on STS-95.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 12-07-2010 07:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by onesmallstep:
Wow! That would have really been a quick crash program - no input from any potential pilots/engineers (if selected) doing the actual flights. At least they would have been more than qualified than the women Cosmonauts chosen in the early '60s for the flight of Vostok 6.
Well, maybe. But let's examine your assumptions: why would M.I.S.S. have been a crash program? Or, rather, more of a crash program than Mercury (begun in December 1958 and aimed at a first launch less than two years later)? The vague schedules being tossed around circa July 1958 weren't radically more ambitious than those developed by NASA a few months later.

Why is input from pilot/engineers a requirement? N.A.C.A./NASA teams had almost zero experience with boosters and spacecraft in 1958 -- so, sure, their system was geared toward flight test engineering and pilot inputs. But why assume that the Air Force's ballistic missile and satellite teams would follow that practice? Or need to?

And why wouldn't a capable parachutist be a suitable test operator for a spacecraft, if its design (like Vostok) minimized "piloting".

onesmallstep
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Registered: Nov 2007

posted 12-08-2010 06:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'll try to answer Mike Cassutt's questions as best I can:
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Cassutt:
...why would MISS have been a crash program? Or, rather, more of a crash program than Mercury... The vague schedules... weren't radically more ambitious than those developed by NASA a few months later.
Well, in fact they were - at least as planned by the Air Force. MISS was to be the first of four phases that would cost $1.5 billion in order to "achieve an early capability to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth." (see here for the section in 'This New Ocean') Remember, this was l958, BEFORE Kennedy, and the lunar landing target date was 1965 (!) - only Ed White's spacewalk, the Gemini 5 long-duration flight and Gemini 6/7 rendezvous were to be accomplished by that year.
quote:
Why is input from pilot/engineers a requirement? NACA/NASA... had almost zero experience with boosters and spacecraft in 1958-so, sure, their system was geared toward flight test engineering and pilot inputs... why assume that the Air Force's ballistic missile and satellite teams would follow that practice? Or need to?
On the face of it, yes, you could just develop the missile system and then add the capsule as an afterthought and strap in a "volunteer" (recruit?) and away he goes-but as part of the MISS phase, it would have involved an unmanned capsule with instruments, then primates (pre-Ham and Enos), and then a man. Can you imagine no input from at least the flight-test divisions at Wright Field and Edwards into the design and functionality of the capsule? Not to mention the ability of the Thor (and later Atlas) boosters to lift the thing and the passenger without killing him? I'm sure SOME advice would have been called for. To put the MISS program into context, it was being done in the middle of a debate about the so-called 'missile gap' during the Cold War, and just after Sputnik. Surely, the USAF did not want dead astronauts at the end of a test program! (See US Missile Systems/history.)
quote:
...why wouldn't a capable parachutist be a suitable test operator for a spacecraft, if its design (like Vostok) minimized "piloting".
Nothing against parachutists in general, but if you narrow down the specific requirements for MISS and the other phases, it becomes more obvious that 'piloting' is more preferable to 'operating' a capsule in orbit. The experiences of the Man High trio-Capt. Kittinger (pilot); Maj. Simons (MC Dr.); and Lt. McClure (engineer) offer a good clue as to the skills necessary to handle and cope with complex tasks-and emergencies. If you look at any of the Man High trios' bios, it clearly shows they 'piloted' their balloons, not 'operated' or 'conducted' them. I'm certain the Air Force would have preferred one Kittinger (or Simons or McClure) over ten Tereshkovas!

Ironically, McClure applied for Project Mercury but was rejected as too tall for the capsule!

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