Chapter 6

Biomedical Aspects of Life-Support Systems

THE STEVER COMMITTEE REPORT had recommended that, in the development of a manned satellite program, the various types of necessary research and development go forward concurrently. This was in fact, the way the Mercury program began to take shape in the winter and spring of 1959. In the course of their training the astronauts were able to provide vitally needed information for the development of life-support systems. As this research and development advanced, it was possible to test the systems through animal flights prior to actual manned ballistic and orbital flights.

Preliminary specifications for a manned spacecraft were distributed to industry in early November 1958, and a contractor's briefing was held by the Space Task Group at Langley Field, Va., for some 40 potential bidders. Detailed specifications were prepared, and on November 14, 1958, were distributed to about 20 manufacturers who had stated their intentions to bid. By mid-December, proposals for constructing the spacecraft had been received from 12 manufacturers or manufacturing teams, and in January 1959 the McDonnell Aircraft Corp. was selected as the contractor. Negotiations were completed on January 26, 1959, and the detailed contract was signed on February 6, 1959.1


1.  Paul E. Purser, Spec. Asst. to Dir., Project Mercury, Memo for Files, Subj: Additional Background Material on Project Mercury, May 11, 1960. See also, "Agenda: Briefing NASA-Space Task Group, November 7, 1958." Participating In this briefing were: Robert Gilruth, "General Background of NASA Manned satellite Program"; Maxime A. Faget, "Description of Development and Qualification Program and Discussion of Various Missions"; Alan B. Kehlet, "Configuration Requirements and Details"; Aleck C. Bond, "Present Status of Heat Protection-Heat Sink Versus Ablation"; André Meyer. "Structural Requirements"; Robert G. Chilton, "Stabilization Control Requirements"; Jack C. Heberlig, "Human Support System, Environmental Control System, Landing System, and Recovery System Requirements"; Howard P. Kyle, "Communications"; Clifford H. Nelson, "Instrumentation"; and Charles H. Zimmerman, "Bidding Information."


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