In line with the Kety committee recommendations, an Office of Life Sciences was established on March 1, 1960, with Clark T. Randt, M.D., a member of the Bioscience Advisory Committee, as Director.20
The major programs in NASA concerned with biology, medicine, and psychology
obviously were manned space exploration and biological investigations in
the space environment. The Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences
had noted that in the first category was the current biomedical effort
in Project. Mercury. It had stated:
Meanwhile, the reaction of the press, and later of the Congress to the August 1959 NASA announcement of the establishment of the Kety committee and the subsequent establishment of an Office of Life Sciences was one of frank appraisal. For example, on August 21, the date of the announcement, The Evening Star (Washington) reported: "The civilian space agency today took the first steps in the direction of participation in space medicine in its own behalf." The Star observed that there were those who discerned in the appointment of this committee "a move to abandon NASA's previously stated position that the agency would leave space medicine to the military services." Nevertheless, it conceded, the shift had been "considered probable, if not inevitable, for some time." Should a space medicine section be established in NASA it would, the Star continued, be the U.S. Government's third major effort in that field.23 "Exactly how the problems to be encountered in space by civilians would differ from those of the military was not immediately apparent," the Star concluded.
During the next months, while Project Mercury was supported by military biomedical personnel, there was in Congress a careful consideration of the pattern that future biomedical support should take. Hearings held by both the House Subcommittee on Science and Aeronautical and Space Sciences touched upon this problem.24
Questioned by Congressman Emilio Q. Daddario of Connecticut about the
respective roles of NASA and the services in providing biomedical support
for manned space exploration beyond Project Mercury, Dr. Glennan, the NASA
Meanwhile Dr. Randt, the new Director of the Office of Life Sciences,
was in the process of clarifying the roles and mission of his office in
relationship to Project Mercury. On June 20, 1960, the first planning conference
on biomedical experiments in extraterrestrial environments was held, with
Dr. Randt presiding. In the course of the conference be delineated the
relationship of his office with that of the Space Task Group and Project
At the moment, however, Project Mercury held top priority, as it had since that day in early October 1958 when it became the symbol of the most ambitious concerted peacetime research and development effort known to man.
20. NASA Release No. 60-135. Dr. Randt was an eminent neurologist who time to NASA from Western Reserve Univ.
21. Space Research in the Life Sciences, op. cit., p. 27.
23. The Evening Star (Washington) noted that the U.S. Air Force already had a "vast network of medical facilities interested in conditions in outer space," and the Navy had "ample facilities" for studying "closed system" conditions such as would be common to both submarines and spaceships. In addition to these two major capabilities, The Star continued, there was the small space medicine activity headed by Dr. Siegfried Gerathewohl at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala.
24. See, for example, To Amend the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 and NASA Authorization for Fiscal Year 1961—Part I. See also Hearings Before the Special Investigating Subcommittee on Science and Astronautics, U.S. House of Representative: (56th Cong., 2d sess.), July 15, and 16, 1960.
25. Space Research in the Life Sciences, op. cit., p. 191.
27. First Planning Conference on Biomedical
Experiments in Extraterrestrial Environments (held under the auspices of
Office of Life Science Programs, NASA Hq., June 20, 1960), NASA TN D-781,
1961, p. 62. Meanwhile. as one step toward bringing about closer rapport
between the Office of Life Sciences and the STG, James P. Nolan, an engineer
graduated from MIT, was assigned as liaison officer to Dr. Randt’s office
in Washington, D.C.