Two basic requirements for the medical support of Project Mercury recovery operations were the provision of prompt, optimum medical care for the astronaut if necessary upon his retrieval from the spacecraft and the early medical evaluation of the astronaut's postflight condition. Experience led to a change in emphasis from taking the medical care to the astronaut, as practiced in the early missions, to returning the astronaut to a point where he could receive this care, as provided in later missions.
In the launch-site area, medical support included a general surgeon, an anesthesiologist, a surgical technician and nurses, a thoracic surgeon, an orthopedic surgeon, a neurosurgeon, an internist, a pathologist, a urologist, a plastic surgeon, and supporting technicians. In early missions they were deployed to Cape Canaveral. On the last two missions it became necessary, because of the distances involved, to develop a team at Tripler Army Hospital, Hawaii, for the Pacific area in addition to the team at Cape Canaveral which covered the Atlantic area. Because such large numbers of highly trained physicians were thus deployed without the likelihood that their services would be required, it was concluded, after careful evaluation, that the specialty team could be maintained on a standby basis at a stateside hospital and flown to Cape Canaveral or a recovery site if their services were needed. Surgical resuscitation teams would be available at these sites, and other launch-site support would be provided by a point team composed of a flight surgeon and scuba-equipped para-rescue personnel airborne in a helicopter. Medical technicians who could render first aid were also available in small vehicles on the Banana River at Cape Canaveral. A surgeon and an anesthesiologist, together with supporting personnel, were stationed in the blockhouse. At Cape Canaveral to serve as the first echelon of resuscitative medical care in the event of an emergency. This was in accordance with basic planning discussed earlier in this study.
For the early missions each vessel was assigned a surgeon, an anesthesiologist,
and a medical technician team with the supporting equipment necessary for
evaluation and medical care. Later, this distribution was modified
to include the assignment of a single physician (either a surgeon or an
anesthesiologist) to the destroyer. The general concept was that
he would provide resuscitative care only, and then evacuate the astronaut
to the carrier in his particular area.