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  Selecting space shuttle astronauts

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Author Topic:   Selecting space shuttle astronauts
moorouge
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posted 08-29-2011 02:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It has been suggested that the 'Right Stuff' of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo era was the 'Wrong Stuff' for those who flew the shuttle.

Daring-do was not was required for the multi-crewed shuttle flights, but more an ability to gel as a crew, to mix and tolerate individual differences whilst being able to cope with long periods of boredom.

Do you agree?

Tykeanaut
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posted 08-29-2011 04:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tykeanaut   Click Here to Email Tykeanaut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, I would imagine that to be true. Too many egos would probably not be condusive to a successful mission. The introduction of various nationalities and female astronauts probably changed the mix too.

DChudwin
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posted 08-29-2011 07:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There were space shuttle pilot astronauts and space shuttle mission specialist astronauts at NASA (not to mention payload specialists). The pilot astronauts were more in the M-G-A mode, while the mission specialists were more diverse.

For a good discussion of the distinction in attitudes, backgrounds and behavior, see Mike Mullane's excellent biography "Riding Rockets."

MCroft04
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posted 08-29-2011 09:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I always felt that the shuttle astronauts could not measure up to the M-G-A guys, until I met some of the shuttle astronauts. I can't speak for all the shuttle astronauts, but I have been very impressed with many of them, and believe them to be of the Right Stuff quality.

BBlatcher
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posted 08-29-2011 10:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for BBlatcher     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One thing to remember is that a lot of the early Shuttle Commanders and pilots were selected to be astronauts during Apollo. Not all of them flew in that program, but they were on support crews, serving as Capcom etc.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-29-2011 11:54 AM     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 moorouge:
Do you agree?
No, and in many ways.

First, who "suggested this"? Whoever did seems not to have understood either The Right Stuff (book, not movie) or the astronaut selections of the 1960s or the 1970s-80s and beyond.

Second, while a couple of the original Mercury astronauts could certainly be classed as lone wolf types (in this case, perhaps lone Wolfe), would that apply to Glenn or Carpenter? How does it apply at all to pilots like Armstrong, Borman, McDivitt, who were selected specifically to fly Apollo missions... that is, missions with crews, where they would be required to act as commanders or as crew members... tolerating individual differences, etc.

Then we have the Shuttle selections, where almost every pilot would have easily fit the Mercury-Gemini-Apollo personality type: single-seat aircraft experience (many of them with extensive combat experience), flight test training and background. It wasn't as though NASA went out of its way to select, say, bomber pilots beginning in 1978.

And look at the mission specialists . . . yes, there were a few who came from purely academic backgrounds. Did that prepare these individuals for long-duration flight and working as crew members? I don't see how.

A goodly percentage of the other mission specialists were military flight test engineers or operational fighter pilots who happened not to be test pilots. Even those from academe or industry (Hart, van Hoften, Thagard) often had operational flying backgrounds, including combat.

This may be taking extreme examples, but who was the more obvious lone wolf type... Al Shepard or Bill Shepherd?

moorouge
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posted 08-29-2011 01:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
May I remind folks that work on the Shuttle or ISS is a world apart from a Mercury, Gemini or Apollo capsule. There is much more room and missions are vastly longer. In fact, NASA's current recommended attribute list includes, "An ability to relate to others with sensitivity, regard and empathy; adaptability, flexibility, fairness, sense of humour, an ability to form atable and quality interpersonal relationships."

With this in mind, could it be that today's NASA does not want 'guts and swagger'? As Patricia Santy (a NASA staff psychiatrist) put it in 'Choosing the Right Stuff', "Who would want to work with a person like that?"

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-29-2011 08:00 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 moorouge:
May I remind folks that work on the Shuttle or ISS is a world apart from a Mercury, Gemini or Apollo capsule.
Who are these "folks" you're reminding? Me? You're expressing your opinion; why not write, "In my opinion..."

Every one of those spacecraft has or had different characteristics, but you seem to be implying that because a Shuttle "has more room" (not much, actually, per crew member, than an Apollo CSM/LM and a tad less than Skylab, which you don't mention) and ISS missions are "longer", that they demand different types of astronauts -- which I don't believe you've successfully established.

Further, you persist in mistakenly emphasizing spacecraft size and mission duration when, in truth, the issue is far more complicated. What about mission complexity? Who needed to get along better, the Apollo 10 crew for a lunar orbit flight? Or the crew of STS-70 on a TDRS deploy? [Guess which mission lasted longer.]

Then there is the matter of training time -- months or years in which NASA officials get a very good sense of how crew members interact, and live with each other. (And fly with each other.)

As for the "recommended attribute," that's a generic statement NASA issued because it has been soliciting astronaut candidate applications from the general public since 1976. Are you suggesting that in the 1960s NASA wanted unstable, unsympathetic types?

quote:
With this in mind, could it be that today's NASA does not want 'guts and swagger'? As Patricia Santy (a NASA staff psychiatrist) put it in 'Choosing the Right Stuff', "Who would want to work with a person like that?"
Who said NASA wanted, or got "guts and swagger"? Even when restricted to selecting active duty military test pilots, NASA still opted for as much variety (in service, in types of aircraft) as possible... not because it was vital to a specific mission, but because it brought different points of view to training and hardware development.

I know Dr. Santy's work quite well -- had the pleasure of interviewing her at length for an AIR & SPACE article a couple of years back -- and while she has strong opinions about the nature of NASA's astronauts, I doubt she would see much difference between Mercury-Gemini-Apollo era, and those selected for Shuttle. She thinks NASA ought to have a new model -- which seems to be another subject.

cosmos-walter
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posted 08-30-2011 07:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cosmos-walter   Click Here to Email cosmos-walter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When NASA selected the Original Seven mankind had no experience how man would behave in space. Thus it was important to choose physically strong men. Now we have experience of 50 years with more than 500 man and women. The crew of a mission grew from on to two, from two to three and in the Space Shuttle/ISS area up to 13. Thus psychical abilities became much more important than physical ones.

garymilgrom
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posted 08-30-2011 09:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cosmos-walter:
Thus psychical abilities became much more important than physical ones.
In space a petite person can move a 10,000 pound satellite with one finger. I don't think NASA looked for "physically strong men", I think they looked for healthy men with experience in how to survive rapidly changing life or death decisions.
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
NASA's current recommended attribute list includes, "An ability to relate to others..."
When talking about the ability to relate to others you are confining your remarks to crew members. Don't forget the MGA astronauts went out into the 400,000 strong contractor community to keep them motivated, and toured the world for the NASA PR machine after their flights. The qualities you mention were highly regarded in MGA, not just Shuttle.

moorouge
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posted 08-30-2011 09:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Isn't there a significant difference between making a PR tour and working with others in a confined space for long periods?

There are rumours that the Mir cosmonauts sometimes came to blows to settle differences that arose from the isolation and pressures of being confined. Perhaps, though, this was the Russian way!

cosmos-walter
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posted 08-30-2011 10:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cosmos-walter   Click Here to Email cosmos-walter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by garymilgrom:
I don't think NASA looked for "physically strong men", I think they looked for healthy men with experience in how to survive rapidly changing life or death decisions.
I fully agree with you. What I wanted to say: In the early days most concern was a healthy body. Now most concerns are on the psychological side. You have to live half a year in space - most time as crew of six. There is not even a chance to go backyard smoking a cigarette.

mjanovec
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posted 08-30-2011 11:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by cosmos-walter:
In the early days most concern was a healthy body. Now most concerns are on the psychological side. You have to live half a year in space - most time as crew of six.

Being healthy is just as important today, especially when you are expecting someone to live in space for 6 months at a time. You want to make sure the astronaut will not have a significant health problem during their long duration mission. Also, the individual must be healthy enough to endure the return to gravity following their mission. While the Mercury astronauts had to be healthy enough to endure the unknowns of space travel, the current astronauts must be equally as healthy to endure the "knowns" of space travel.

Regarding the psychological aspects, this was a huge consideration for the M-G-A astronauts. Since NASA was sending these guys out into the unknown, they made sure to select stable individuals who could handle the demands of the mission. Additionally, the early astronauts needed to get along well with colleagues, contractors, and the media. It was (and still is) a demanding career that requires a well-balanced and stable individual.

DJS
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posted 08-30-2011 11:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DJS   Click Here to Email DJS     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Don Lind was officially a pilot astronaut selected in the 5th group. He flew on the Space Shuttle as a mission specialist. The same is true of Bruce McCandless. If people like Buzz Aldrin, Walt Cunningham, and Rusty Schweickart would have stayed for the Shuttle program, would they have been pilots or mission specialists?

ilbasso
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posted 08-30-2011 12:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
John Glenn was a mission specialist...

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-30-2011 12:28 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 DJS:
If people like Buzz Aldrin, Walt Cunningham, and Rusty Schweickart would have stayed for the Shuttle program, would they have been pilots or mission specialists?
In the case of Aldrin and Cunningham, I suspect as pilots. For Schweickart, who always seemed more interested in science and EVA -- mission specialist-type activities -- maybe not.

McCandless was a Shuttle pilot, current on the STA and flying it, until offered the chance to do the MMU mission.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 08-30-2011 01:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ilbasso:
John Glenn was a mission specialist...

Actually, he was considered a payload specialist.

mjanovec
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posted 08-30-2011 02:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ilbasso:
John Glenn was a mission specialist...

Glenn didn't stay in the program as an active astronaut. When he flew on the shuttle, it was essentially as a guest of NASA. So you really can't compare his role in Project Mercury with his role on STS-95.

Fra Mauro
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posted 08-31-2011 09:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Shuttle astronauts have the "Right Stuff" too but a different brand because the missions were different. Shuttle astronauts worked in a different age — no Deke Slayton, much less publicity, no backup crews leading to a future flight, in a sense, the age of spaceflight had matured.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 08-31-2011 10:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by DJS:
Don Lind was officially a pilot astronaut selected in the 5th group. He flew on the Space Shuttle as a mission specialist. The same is true of Bruce McCandless.

According to the JSC press release following the announcement of the TFNGs, Kerwin, Garriott, Gibson, Lind, Henize, Lenoir, Musgrave, Parker, Thornton and Allen were all considered scientists - and thus presumably considered as mission specialists.

The remaining 17 active astronauts (outside of the TFNGs) not designated as scientists, including McCandless, were considered pilots.

DJS
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posted 08-31-2011 10:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DJS   Click Here to Email DJS     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That is why I wondered about what Aldrin would be considered had he stayed for the Space Shuttle Program. Since he had a PhD in aerospace engineering, I thought that he might be considered a scientist and hence, a mission specialist.

Fra Mauro
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posted 08-31-2011 01:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I doubt that after two missions, and also being a pilot, that Buzz wouldn't want to be a CDR. But, an EVA or two, might have changed his mind.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-31-2011 01:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Which raises an interesting question, though probably ultimately unanswerable: if a majority of the Apollo flown veterans had decided to stick around and fly shuttle (and were given the chance) would they have influenced the crew roles aboard shuttle?

By that I mean, had Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Pete Conrad and others decided they wanted to fly on shuttle too, would their involvement and past experience have translated to shuttle commanders also doing spacewalks or was the training workload for both activities just too much for one person to handle?

During Apollo, mission roles sort of followed the Capt. Kirk model — the commander also led the away party (i.e. EVA) while the helmsman (i.e. command module pilot) stayed aboard the spacecraft. For shuttle, the commander was more like a sea captain, always at the helm and last to leave the ship.

Would a majority of the Apollo astronauts have accepted the new order or insisted on maintaining an Apollo approach? And more importantly, would their desires have mattered?

Fra Mauro
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posted 08-31-2011 02:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think they would have accepted their new role. The only example we have here is John Young.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 08-31-2011 03:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think your question, Robert, can be partially answerable in that 27 astronauts from the M-G-A-S era stayed until the selection of the TFNG; the question then becomes, how much influence did they have, if any, in defining crew roles?

For example, an early '80s Rockwell publication and other sources state that the typical shuttle mission would be flown with two, probably three astronauts, with any other seats filled by payload specialists. This would seem to indicate that the commander and pilot were already defined in the Next Generation (Capt. Picard model)

Did any of the early astronauts - Young, Bean - have any say or voice how they felt roles should be allocated?

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-31-2011 10:43 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 Robert Pearlman:
Would a majority of the Apollo astronauts have accepted the new order or insisted on maintaining an Apollo approach? And more importantly, would their desires have mattered?
Robert, I believe their desires were accommodated -- and you saw the results. Young was chief of the office beginning in 1974; Abbey was director FCOD from early 1976. They were both veterans of Apollo and had the greatest, and likely final say, in crew roles.

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