In his 1979 book "The Right Stuff" author Tom Wolfe describes the competition among early aviators and rocket
pioneers of the 1950s and 60s for status and rank in the brotherhood of flight.1 The book charts the
post world war II evolution of aviation the quest to achieve Mach 1, the speed of sound, and later attempts to
reach ever greater speeds and ultimately outer space.
Early attempts to break the sound barrier and achieve Mach 1 were met with disaster and death, but ultimately Chuck Yeager, a young air force pilot, broke the barrier in 1947 setting the standard of performance to be challenged and beat. Thereafter a competition ensued among aviators to reach ever greater speeds and heights. The so-called pinnacle of the pyramid.
Those that survived the rigors of flight training where among the "righteous" possessors of "The Right Stuff". A quality of ego, attitude and performance that cheated death and defied mistake. These pilots refused to accept personal fault or failure in themselves and their peers. Members of the righteous brotherhood possessed the ability to make split second decisions and take actions to avoid catastrophic, life ending, consequences without mistake no matter the circumstance.
Not everyone was so endowed. In the push to expand the envelope to greater and greater speed and heights were aviators that succumbed to the many demands of flight and either washed-out of training, were seriously injured or killed in the process. To the possessors of the "right stuff" these individuals lacked the necessary attributes and were doomed by their own poor decisions and performance. In short, they made a mistake; they "screwed-the-pooch". Clearly, such a fate could never touch a member of the brotherhood blessed with the "right stuff".
Early success in pushing the envelope of speed and altitude were achieved in a class of rocket plane like the X-1 and X-15. These vehicles powered by a rocket engine were carried aloft by a "mother ship" a B-52 or similar and then dropped for initiation of powered flight. The test pilot would ignite the rocket engine and fly the plane to apogee thereafter gliding back to earth all while under manual control. By contrast an astronaut, the "pilot" of the spacecraft, at that time an automated Mercury Capsule, was a mere occupant without any control of the assent or decent "spam in a can" as described by Chuck Yeager. As far as the X-15 pilots were concerned, the "true brotherhood" astronauts were not at the pinnacle of the pyramid as they did not control their craft. To add insult to injury monkeys were to be the first occupants of these early space vehicles. Astronauts as passive participants to their flights could not possess the "right stuff" and were considered a step below "real" pilots.
The perspective of the "brotherhood" did not last long. The fame and admiration that accompanied the seven astronaut candidates, "single combat warriors", in the space race with the Soviet Union picked for the first space flights soon surpassed the pioneers of speed and altitude. In a flash astronauts who hadn't even made a flight were considered the pinnacle of the pyramid. Nevertheless, as with test pilots the same standard of performance accompanied astronauts who also viewed themselves as possessors of the "right stuff", a necessary characteristic of the chosen few who dared to reach for the heavens. To make a mistake, "screw-the-pooch" was not only life threatening for an astronaut but sure to cause the loss of status and rank in the brotherhood of flight if not in the eyes of an adoring public.
However, "screwing-the-pooch" was not the only obstacle an aviator had to overcome to achieve and maintain flight status and the aura of the "right stuff". Among the many hurdles an aviator had to deal with were the cadre of doctors that gave routine physical examinations a necessary prerequisite for flight status. As Wolfe explained ". . . a man could go for a routine physical one fine day, feeling like a million dollars, and be grounded for fallen arches."2 To pilots doctors were viewed as a potential enemy to be dealt with carefully, lied to if necessary. The peril faced by aviators was no more obvious than in the case of Deke Slayton.
Deke Slayton one of the original Mercury 7 Astronauts possessed the "right stuff". Deke entered military service out of high school during WWII where he received flight training and flew his first combat mission at the age of 19.3 By the end of WWII Deke had flown missions over Europe and Japan and had completed 1,100 hours as a pilot and 331 hours as a co-pilot with a total of sixty-three combat missions.4 After the war he continued to fly and enrolled in the University of Minnesota where he received a degree in aeronautical engineering completing a four year course of work in two.5 After a short stint at Boeing in Seattle and later in Germany Deke ended up at Maroc later named Edwards Air Force Base where the Air Force had a flight test center.6 Edwards is where Yeager broke the sound barrier and where many new designs were being tested.7 At Edwards Deke graduated from flight test school and became a test pilot first flying chase for the Bell X-2 and later flying the Convair F-102A as project pilot and the F-105 as overall test project manager.8 It was at this time in 1958 that the X-15 rocket plane was in development and the space race was "heating up".9 The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) a newly formed entity was tasked with the man in space effort, named Project Mercury.
Deke's background made him a prime candidate for Project Mercury NASA's attempt to place a man in orbit. In January 1959 Deke received sealed orders to report to Washington DC for a classified briefing on the project.10 Originally a group of 110 military test pilots were chosen as potential astronaut candidates from this group 69 received invitations to be briefed and offered an opportunity to volunteer.11 Deke although somewhat ambivalent decided to proceed with the process and was among 36 that went to Lovelace Clinic for a first round of medical tests.12 In the end 18 candidates made the final list and of those 7 were chosen including Deke.13
A part of Astronaut training included runs in a centrifuge where g-forces anticipated during flight were simulated. During these runs bio-medical data was collected including heart rate. In 1959, early in training, William Douglas, the astronaut's doctor, noticed that Deke experienced "idiopathic atrial fibrillation" an occasional irregularity in heart rate during centrifuge runs, an "erratic heart rate."14 Although, Douglas did not notice any impact on Slayton's performance, he consulted with the chief of cardiology at the Philadelphia Navy Hospital and thereafter concluded the condition was of no consequence.15 Douglas informed Robert Gilruth, Project Mercury Director, who passed the information on to NASA-HQ, but no action was taken.16 Slayton continued his training and was ultimately selected as pilot for the second Project Mercury orbital flight, MA-7, Mercury-Atlas 7, scheduled for 1962.
However, early in 1962 NASA Administrator, James Webb, reopened the "erratic heart rate" issue by calling for a re-evaluation.17 Once again Douglas along with other physicians assigned to Project Mercury studied the matter and concluded Slayton should remain as pilot of MA-7.18 Additional input from the Office of Space Medicine at NASA-HQ and Air Force Surgeon General judged Slayton fully qualified.19 Nevertheless, Webb would not leave it alone. He referred the matter to a panel of three "nationally eminent cardiologists" who concluded that they could not state that Slayton's performance would not be impacted by his heart condition.20 The cardiologists recommended that if NASA had an astronaut with a heart that did not "fibrillate" they should use him instead.21 On March 15, 1962 NASA announced that Scott Carpenter had replaced Slayton as pilot of MA-7.22
Deke's experience with fibrillation is relevant because it shows NASA's aversion to risk in what was a risk filled environment. Despite the early and numerous admonitions that Deke's "erratic heart rate" was of no concern or consequence the mere suggestion by three "nationally eminent cardiologists" that they could not state Deke's condition would not impact his performance was enough to end his astronaut career. Forget that Deke had already experienced stress and conditions more severe than anticipated in Project Mercury. It was just easier to use someone else. The same aversion to risk was evident in NASA's decision to insert another test flight of the Redstone booster prior to Alan Shepard's sub-orbital flight. The MR-BD flight as it became known delayed the US entry into manned spaceflight and allowed the USSR to orbit Yuri Gagarin first. While, the source and cause of these outcomes are obviously debatable the point is NASA was not going to take chances in a situation where it was just easier to insert another test or replace an astronaut.
So, what has all this got to do with Tom Wolfe, Gus Grissom and the flight of Liberty Bell 7? Recall the biggest transgression
a member of the fraternity could make was to "screw-the-pooch". Well Grissom's sub-orbital flight in Libery Bell 7, July 21,
1961, ended with a loss of the spacecraft which sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Grissom attributed the event to a faulty
explosive hatch that "just blew" before the recovery helicopter could latch-on allowing water to spill into the spacecraft, swamping
the vessel and almost drowning Grissom.23 Rather than focus on other likely causalities, for example the possibility of a
faulty and not fully developed recovery procedure, the event ended-up with two schools of thought: a "transient malfunction" or
Grissom had "screwed-thepooch" and somehow activated the explosive hatch prematurely.24
Grissom's equals accepted his explanation of the hatch episode. Gordon Cooper, who knew Grissom well from past encounters
and time spent flying together stated that ". . . if he had screwed up, Gus would have been the first to admit it."25
"I believed him" simple as that.26 John Glenn and Wally Schirra also tended to agree with the so-called "transient
malfunction" explanation as both had received injuries from activating the plunger that triggered the explosive hatch, while
Grissom showed no evidence of impact or injury after his flight.27 Scott Carpenter dismissed the episode by
referencing the botched recovery and the formal inquiry which exonerated Grissom.28 Nevertheless, technicians could
not reproduce the accident and a precise explanation remained elusive with the capsule and hatch at the bottom of the ocean.
Any lingering doubt about Grissom's performance and status at NASA should have been quashed by his subsequent appointment as command pilot to the prime crew of the first Gemini flight, a two man spacecraft, planned for 1964.29 Grissom was intimately involved in the development of the Gemini Spacecraft, which acquired the nick name "Gus Mobile".30 Confirming of his good works on Gemini, Grissom was appointed as commander of the first flight of the Apollo Spacecraft that ultimately led to his death in a fire on the pad of Launch Complex 34 at the Cape, January 21, 1967 along with Ed White and Roger Chaffee.
Nevertheless, some like Walt Williams, Project Mercury Operations Director, opined that Grissom may have hit the plunger with his helmet by mistake.31 As Betty Grissom observed, the lack of an explanation for the cause of the hatch incident ". . . left a vague question mark, the innuendo that officials might be covering up for pilot error. Barroom psychologists whispered the possibility that Gus Grissom was accident prone. This was typical human perversity, looking for clay feet of heroes . . ."32 It seems obvious that had Grissom really "screwed-the-pooch" he would have went the way of Deke Slayton. Why take a chance when there were other qualified, candidates who hadn't "screwed-the-pooch" to take his place? Take the easy, safe, way out like with Deke, or MR-BD. Why promote a man, keep him on, when it was just as easy to move on without him; especially if he was flawed in some way? Other second guessers were less generous.
Despite the follow-on experience and performance of Grissom in Projects Gemini and Apollo Tom Wolfe's 1979 "The Right Stuff" pushed instead
that ". . . it was so obvious! Grissom had just screwed the pooch!"33 Surely, Wolfe was aware of Grissom's exoneration in the formal
inquiry and subsequent good works in Gemini and Apollo? How could he sustain his opinion, second guessing, that Grissom had done something "stupid",
"screwed-the-pooch"? As Deke observed "Everybody later developed an opinion about what had really happened. There was one group that thought Gus
had screwed up. . . that he had blown the hatch early by mistake. This is of course, my gripe with Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. He was kinda tough
on Gus anyway, and in the matter of the hatch pretty much convicted him."34 Oh really?
Well lets put Wolfe's opinion to the test and see who really "screwed-the-pooch". What better evidence did Wolfe possess
and present to account for his Gus "screwed-the-pooch" position? A review of Wolfe's book shows it contained no new
startling revelation or information, about the incident none really, just more "innuendo" and hyperbole to "convict"
Grissom while ignoring relevant information or opinion to the contrary. Later, Wolfe's opinion was solidified as truth
and accepted dogma in the movie of the same name "The Right Stuff" released in 1983. Lets face it an astronaut
screwing-the-pooch is much more entertaining than a simple transient malfunction.
Wolfe pretty much rests his entire "screw-the-pooch" case on a melodramatic presentation of the event and a reading of Grissom's heart rate as an indication of his mental state and performance, even though at first he says the rates "didn't mean a great deal".35 Wolfe relates that "Gus was more nervous than Alan Shepard during the countdown" by comparing Shepard's pulse and respiration rates to those of Grissom; although, no figures are provided. Later Wolfe notes that "[Grissom's] pulse stayed up around 150 [beats per minute, bpm] throughout the five minutes he was weightless Shepard's pulse had never reached 140, not even during liftoff - and went up to 171 during the firing of the retro-rockets before re-entry through the earth's atmosphere. The informal consensus among the program's doctors was that if an astronaut's pulse rate went above 180, the mission should be aborted."36
However, a quick glance at the NASA "Results" SP publications for the Mercury flights do not appear to support Wolfe's proclamation that "Gus was more nervous than Alan Shepard during the countdown". The "Results of the First US Manned Suborbital Space Flight, dated June 6, 1961, reports Shepard's pulse rate ranged from 80 to 95 beats per minute (bpm) during countdown with a suggested mean bpm near 88.37 The "Results of the Second US Manned Suborbital Space Flight, dated July 21, 1961 reports Grissom's countdown pulse rate at between 65 to 116 bpm, or a mean of about 91 bpm.38 A difference in the mean beats per minute of 88 for Shepard and 91 for Grissom hardly seems definitive. In fact, Grissom's pulse rate was lower than Shepard's at various points in the countdown at 65 bpm, but why pay attention to the little details that might interfere with a good "story".39 A comparison of some astronaut heart rates as reported in Table 11-1, titled Pulse Rates, in "Results" NASA SP-45 publication can be displayed as follows:
Various periods of flight are represented with the corresponding bpm measurement listed. The data does suggest Grissom's heart
rate was elevated at times above those of his peers; although, Cooper experienced heart rates higher than Grissom during liftoff
(not shown above) and reentry.40
Factors not directly discussed that also impact pulse rates include individual height, weight, diet and other characteristics in populations that produce different responses. NASA Doctors concluded Grissom's pulse rate "reflected Astronaut Grissom's individual reaction to the multiple stresses imposed and were consistent with intact performance function."41 The "Results" NASA SP-45 for Cooper's fourth manned orbital flight observes: "It is difficult to establish definite number-value cutoffs for various medical parameters, but this was done early in the program. Gradually these rules were made less specific so that the evaluation and judgment of the medical flight controller were the prime determinants in making a decision. The condition of the astronaut as determined by voice and interrogation rather than physical parameters alone became a key factor in the aeromedical advice to continue or terminate a mission. This is as it should be and follows the lessons which were learned in general medicine wherein numerical laboratory values are not necessarily the final answer."42 In the case of Grissom, NASA Doctors noted "Astronaut Grissom made coherent and appropriate voice transmissions throughout the flight."43
The reliance on heart rate to judge mental state and performance is a real stretch even by the standards set by the "true brothers" the X-15 pilots. Remember these are the guys that Wolfe said were "very quietly, very privately. . . laughing! Naturally they couldn't say anything. But now surely! - it was so obvious! Grissom had just screwed the pooch!"44 Well if your going to laugh you better have a good reason. Lets see then, how did the X-15 pilots, the "true brothers" heart rates measure up during their flights? "The initial measurements were somewhat startling to aeromedical experts, for heart rates averaged 145 to 160 beats per minute. On some flights, they rose as high as 185 beats per minute and never fell below 145."45 Normally such high pulse rates would only be experienced by sick people or people under extreme physical stress. "It was determined from repeated flight tests, however that stress or exertion was not involved and that the high rates were primarily due to psychological factors associated with the excitement of launch and acceleration of the X-15."46 The chart that accompanies Dr. Dolan's presentation on X-15 pilot heart and respiration rates shows averages for various periods of X-15 flight as follows:
Grissom's heart and respiration rates as reported and displayed in the NASA Results publication for the MR-4 flight are as follows (bpm & respiration
figures are enhanced to make more readable):
During the Vietnam War NASA monitored the condition of pilots on combat missions involving carrier take-offs and landings,
along with bombing runs over hostile territory.47 The study showed that higher heart rates were associated with
the launch and recovery rather than bombing portions of a flight.48 This tended to confirm "that risk or danger
are negligible factors in determining heart rate in experienced pilots under moderate levels of non-physical stress."49
The Air Force Thunderbirds provide a reference point and exhibited a heart rate of 139 bpm during aerobatic demonstration.
The average heart rate for the "slotman" exceeded 170 bpm for the duration of a 35 minute demonstration flight.50
The average heart rate for pilots seeing action was 87.6 bpm much lower than the Thunderbirds.51 By comparison
experienced parachutists had been recorded with heart rates above 200 bpm in some subjects.52
The obvious point is that heart rate alone is not an accurate indication of risk, danger or performance in situations of heightened non-physical stress. In fact it appears quite common in aviators. The elevated heart rate numbers for Grissom correlate well with those of the X-15 pilots in similar ballistic trajectories involving sub-orbital flight. But all this information was available prior to 1979. In a more recent study of heart rate in medical residents during simulated critical clinical encounters the conclusion ". . . that heart rate elevation alone correlates poorly with both perceived stress and performance. . . [The] study suggests that . . . performance . . . may be more closely tied to one's level of clinical experience than to perceived or actual stress."53
Viewed in light of this additional information Grissom's heart rate hardly seems unusual or extreme, but rather clustered comfortably with a group of aviation pioneers, his fellow "brothers", exploring the outer reaches of man's earthly environment under similar circumstances. There was no magical 180 bpm limitation as it did not exist. Simply stated the facts show Grissom's heart rates before, during and after his flight, were not evidence of incapacity or panic but ones that were rather ordinary considering the circumstances.
Boomhower, Ray E., Gus Grissom The Lost Astronaut, Indiana Historical Society Press, Indianapolis, 2004
Carpenter, Scott and Kris Stover, For Spacious Skies, the Uncommon Journey of a Mercury Astronaut, Harcort Inc., 2002
Carpenter, Scott M., L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., John H. Glenn, Jr., Virgil I. Grissom, Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Alan B. Shepard, Jr., and Donald K. Slayton, We Seven, by the Astronauts Themselves, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1962
Clarke, Samuel, Timothy Horeczko, Dale Cotton & Aaron Bair, Heart rate, anxiety, and performance of residents during a simulated critical clinical encounter: a pilot study, BMC Medical Education, July 27, 2014
Cooper, Gordon, Leap of Faith, Harper Collins, New York, 2000
Dolan Charles, J. Dr., The Legacy of the X-15, Proceeding of the X-15 First Flight 30th Anniversary Celebration, NASA Conference Publication 3105, 2000
Glenn, John with Nick Taylor, John Glenn, A Memoir, Bantam Books, New York, et al., 1999
Grissom, Betty with Henry Still, Starfall, Thomas Y. Cromwell Company, New York, 1974
Kraft, Chris, Flight, My Life in Mission Control, Dulton - Penguin Press, New York, 2001
Leopold, George, Calculated Risk The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom, Purdue University Press, 2016
Mather, William G., III, Boris V. Kit, Gail A. Bloch & Martha F. Herman, Man, His Job and the Environment: A Review and Annotated Bibliography of Selected Recent Research on Human Performance, US Department of Commerce, National Bureau of Standard Special Publication 319, October 1970
Mercury Project Summary Including Results of the Fourth Manned Orbital Flight, NASA SP-45, 1963
Platter, C.M., Heart Strain Greater in Landing on Carrier than Bombing, Aviation Week & Space Technology, March 13, 1967, pp.60-68
Proceedings of the X-15 First Flight 30th Anniversary Celebration, NASA Conference Publication 3105, June 8, 1989
Schirra, Wally with Richard N. Billings, Schirra's Space, Naval Institute Press, 1988
Slayton, Donald "Deke", with Michael Cassutt, Deke! U.S. Manned Space from Mercury to the Shuttle, Tom Doherty Associated Books, New York, 1994
Stillwell, Wendell H., X-15 Research Results With a Selected Bibliography, NASA SP-60, 1964
Swanson, Loyd S., Jr., James M. Grimwood, and Charles C. Alexander. This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury. NASA SP-4201, 1966
Results of the First U.S. Manned Suborbital Space Flight, NASA, Washington D.C., June 6, 1961
Results of the Second U.S. Manned Suborbital Space Flight, July 21, 1961, NASA, 1961
Results of the First United States Manned Orbital Space Flight, February 20, 1962, NASA, 1962
Results of the Second U.S. Manned Space Flight, May 24, 1962, NASA SP-6, 1962
Results of the Third U.S. Manned Orbital Space Flight, October 3, 1962, NASA SP-12, 1962
Wolfe, Tom, The Right Stuff, Picador, New York, 1979
1 Wolfe, Tom, The Right Stuff, Picador, New York, 1979 (hereinafter Stuff) 2 Stuff, at p.22 3 Slayton, Donald "Deke", with Michael Cassutt, Deke! U.S. Manned Space from Mercury to the Shuttle Tom Doherty Associates Books, New York, 1994, p.26 (hereinafter Deke) 4 Deke, at p. 39 5 Deke, at p. 44 6 Deke, at p. 55 7 Deke, at p. 55 8 Deke, at p. 62-64
9 Deke, at p. 65
10 Deke, at p. 66
11 Deke, at p. 69
12 Deke, at p. 70-71
13 Deke, at p. 73
14 Swanson, Loyd S., Jr., James M. Grimwood and Charles C. Alexander, This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury, NASA SP-4201, 1966, p.441 (hereinafter TNO)
20 TNO, at p. 441-442
21 Id., at p. 442
22 As a consolation of sorts, Deke became head of the newly created Astronaut Office, a postion in which he oversaw astronaut training and crew selections for all subsequent Gemini and Apollo manned space flights. During these years Deke's flight status was down graded and he was forced to fly with a co-pilot, his condition precluding solo flight in NASA T-38 jets. It was ten years later, after projects Gemini and Apollo, that Deke was finally cleared to fly as a member of the Apollo-Soyuz crew, a flight in which Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft of the former space rivals the USA and USSR would meet in earth orbit. Deke, p.274-275
Around 1970, prior to his return to flight status, Deke noticed his heart stopped fibrillating when he took vitamins to address a cold caught while on a hunting trip. Deke, p. 265-266 Thereafter Deke began a regime of vitamin therapy to test his hypothesis and noticed the fibrillations had not reoccurred. Id. Charles Berry, astronaut physician and flight surgeon, was aware of Deke's use of vitamin therapy and corresponding lack of fibrillations. Berry consulted a specialist from the Mayo Clinic about Deke's condition and subsequent tests proved the fibrillations had ceased. Id. After some additional effort Deke was returned to flight status on March 13, 1972. Id.
23 Grissom, Betty with Henry Still, Starfall, Thomas Y. Cromwell Company, New York, 1974, p. 101 (hereinafter Starfall)
24 Several explanations for the premature activation of the hatch have been offered including electrostatic discharge generated by the helicopter's rotor wash that produced an arc that could have caused the hatch detonation. Leopold, George, Calculated Risk of the Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom, Purdue University Press, 2016, pp. 129-131 (hereinafter Risk). Several more possibilities are offered by Leopold including a loose recovery lanyard that got caught in the landing bag straps, omission of an "o" ring on the detonator plunger that allowed the motion of the capsule to depress the plunger mechanism once Grissom removed the safety pin, chemical interactions of sea water on the hatch explosives. Leopold states: "The official NASA account of the incident concluded that Liberty Bell 7 sank "after a faulty circuit blew the hatch before help arrived." p. 129. Add to these possibilities and conclusion that after the event Grissom and Wally Schirra, one of the Mercury Astronauts, donned their spacesuits got in the capsule and made every effort to inadvertently trigger the hatch mechanism without success. Boomhower, Ray E., Gus Grissom: The Lost Astronaut, Indiana Historical Society Press, Indianapolis, 2004, p. 216 (hereinafter Lost)
25 Cooper, Gordon, Leap of Faith, Harper Collins, New York, 2000, p.32 (hereinafter Faith)
27 Glenn, John with Nick Taylor, John Glenn, A Memoir, Bantam Books, New York, et al., 1999, p.276 (hereinafter Glenn) and Schirra, Wally with Richard N. Billings, Schirra's Space, Naval Institute Press, 1988, p.75 (hereinafter Schirra)
28 Carpenter, Scott and Kris Stover, For Spacious Skies, the Uncommon Journey of a Mercury Astronaut, Harcort Inc., 2002, p. 231 (hereinafter Carpenter)
29 Starfall, p. 140. It wasn't until March 23, 1965 that the first manned Gemini flight, the Molly Brown, flew. Starfall, p.150. Grissom & John Young were appointed as prime crew for the first Gemini Flight on April 13, 1964, Lost, p. 246
30 Lost, p. 239
31 Deke, p. 100
32 Starfall, p. 106
33 Stuff, p. 231
34 Deke, p.100
35 Stuff, t p. 224
37 Results of the First U.S. Manned Suborbital Space Flight, NASA, Washington D.C., June 6, 1961. These formal figures are in contrast to what Chris Kraft relates in his book Flight, My Life in Mission Control, Dulton - Penguin Press, New York, 2001, on page 142 (hereinafter Flight), that: "The only medical data that raised eyebrows was Shepard's heart rate, spiking at 220 and holding above 150 for several minutes. Both numbers were above anything seen before in Shepard's medical history, even during stress tests and centrifuge runs." Whereas, Gus reports in We Seven, by the Astronauts Themselves, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1962, p. 57, that: "The only one [test] I did not do so well on was the treadmill. My heart-beat went up to 200 beats per minute before the doctors stopped the test." Interesting that Grissom was observed with a heart-rate as high as 200 bpm in training apparently without adverse consequences. While, Shepard's 220 bpm heart-rate, as reported by Kraft post-1979 if true, was even higher apparently without adverse impact on the MR-3 Flight, his performance or health. Kraft went on to say that: "But the surgeons weren't taht worried. They'd recently gotten a report on race car drivers showing heart rates even higher, and lasting for several hours. . . . Based on that, Shepard's heart rate seemed well within the norm for a person whose adrenaline was flowing." Flight, p. 142.
38 Results of the Second U.S. Manned Suborbital Space Flight, July 21, 1961, NASA, 1961 (hereinafter Results 2nd
39 During Grissom's pre-flight physical for the aborted flight attempt on July 18, 1961, William Douglas, Astronaut's Physician, ". . . could not believe Grissom's blood pressure. "It can't be this low" he said. "Well" Grissom answered, "I can try to boost it up a little for you." "No" the surgeon answered, "but I think you ought to be just a bit excited." Starfall, p. 93. On July 21, 1961 before Grissom's flight "[d]octor's declared him physically fit. The psychiatrist found no alarming level of anxiety. "Are you afraid?" the doctor asked. "I've been afraid plenty of times," Gus replied. "All of us guys would admit that. Anyone who hasn't been afraid well, there's something wrong with him." The doctor decided there was nothing wrong with Gus." Starfall, p. 96
41 Results 2nd, p. 7/8
42 Mercury Project Summary Including Results of the Fourth Manned Orbital Flight, NASA SP-45, 1963, Ch.11, p.7 (hereinafter SP-45)
43 Results 2nd, Ch.4 p.6
44 Stuff, p. 231
45 Stillwell, Wendell H., X-15 Research Results With a Selected Bibliography, NASA SP-60, 1964
46 Proceedings of the X-15 First Flight 30th Anniversary Celebration, NASA Conference Publication 3105, June 8, 1989, p. 96
47 Platter, C.M., Heart Strain Greater in Landing on Carrier than Bombing, Aviation Week & Space Technology, March 13, 1967, p.60
49 Id., at 61
52 Mather, William G., III, Boris V. Kit, Gail A. Bloch & Martha F. Herman, Man, His Job and the Environment: A Review and Annotated Bibliography of Selected Recent Research on Human Performance, US Department of Commerce, National Bureau of Standard Special Publication 319, October 1970, p. 82
53 Clarke, Samuel, Timothy Horeczko, Dale Cotton & Aaron Bair, Heart rate, anxiety, and performance of residents during a simulated critical clinical encounter: a pilot study, BMC Medical Education, July 27, 2014
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