Detailed Responsibilities

The NASA Space Task Group on September 9, 1960, requested that the supply and resupply of equipment in support of Project Mercury recovery operations be the responsibility of the Assistant for Bioastronautics, Office of the Department of Defense Representative. Specifically the DOD Representative for Bioastronautics should take necessary steps to procure medical equipage as listed in the "Medical Annex, Medical Recovery Operations. Project Mercury," which had been revised on September 9, 1960. "and such other medical supplies and resupplies as deemed necessary." The use of this equipage and supplies would be on a no-cost basis to NASA for items returned to DOD. NASA would pay the cost of nonreturned items. Upon termination of the mission, control of medical resources would revert to the Assistant for Bioastronautics, Office of the DOD Representative, Patrick AFB. NASA would bear the cost of transportation of medical resources in the implementation of the medical recovery operation of Project Mercury.31

Meanwhile, as the months had passed, the responsibility of DOD for support of Project Mercury in other areas had become clarified. For example, details of carrying out the astronaut preflight feeding program at Cape Canaveral came under study during early 1960. On February 18, 1960, Walter C. Williams, Associate Director for Project, Mercury, requested that DOD personnel at Patrick AFB be responsible for the 3-day low-residue diets prior to each manned shot, as well as for feeding prior to practice countdown. Technical and operational advice would be provided by the Space Task Group.32 Specifically it was suggested that Miss Beatrice Finkelstein, research nutritionist and dietitian in the Aerospace Medical Laboratory at Wright Air Development, supervise the program in the kitchen and dining facilities available near NASA Hangar S at Cape Canaveral. Colonel Knauf and Miss Finkelstein agreed with this suggestion, and on July 21, 1960, she submitted an organizational plan for the preflight feeding of astronauts participating in Project Mercury.33

In substance, the plan called for a high-protein, low-residue diet for 72 to 96 hours prior to takeoff so as to preclude defecation during flight. This precaution was taken because the protective clothing worn by the astronaut could not without danger be removed in flight, and performance of this physiological function would be difficult. The diet had to be prepared and served under rigidly controlled conditions. Because of the stringent demands placed upon the astronaut in his preflight activities, it was recommended that a small food-preparation facility be added to the readiness room. Building 5-1540, Area 39, at Cape Canaveral could be renovated at a minimum cost; food supplies could be obtained from the commissary at Patrick AFB or through local purchase: be handled by two medically trained food-service individuals. Assistance in carrying out this program could be given by the research nutritionist assigned to the Wright Air Development Center.34

As the plan was finally worked out with respect to accounting of moneys spent for food, procedures for procurement on a NASA reimbursable basis were developed by the Office of the Assistant for Bioastronauties without including the hospital food service accounting.35

In another area, the Project Mercury blood program, plans were completed by the spring of 1961. On January 5 the DOD Assistant for Bioastronautics had forwarded the proposed program to STG for review, and on February 16 the Associate Director, Walter C. Williams, approved the program and requested that the Assistant for Bioastronautics proceed with implementation.36

The plan stipulated that blood would be drawn from personnel available locally should a transfusion for the astronauts become necessary. Group and type-specific blood, without cross-matching, would be employed, since all the astronauts had been previously tested to insure the safety of such a procedure. Medical personnel would be told at least 72 hours in advance of the blood group and Rh factor of the prospective recipient, and donors (preferably four) would be bled 24 hours in advance. Procedures for handling and administration were specified in detail.37

31.  Walter C. Williams, Assoc. Dir. for Project Mercury, Memo for Maj. Gen. Leighton I. Davis, DOD Representative, Project Mercury Support Operations, Attn. : Col. George M. Knauf, Sept. 20, 1960.

32.  Walter C. Williams, Assoc. Dir. for Project Mercury, Ltr to Maj. Gen. Donald N. Yates, DOD Representative for Project Mercury, Feb. 18, 1960.

33.  Beatrice Finkelstein, Chief, Food Technology Section, Life Support Systems Lab., Aerospace Medical Div., Ltr to Col. George Knauf, USAF (MC), Patrick AFB, Subj.: Organizational Plan, Project Mercury, July 2, 19130.

34.  Project Mercury, Organizational Plan for Pre-Space Flight Feeding, dated July 21, 1960.

35.  Col. Raymond A. Yerg, USAF (MC), Ltr to M. M. Link, Sept. 27,1963.

36.  Walter C. Williams, Assoc. Dir., Project Mercury, Ltr to Commander, AFMTC, Attn.: Col. Knauf, Feb. 16, 1961.

37.  This program was based on ltr from Col. Frank M. Townsend, USAF (MC), Director of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, to Staff Surgeon (Colonel Knauf), Subj.: Proposed Blood Program for Project Mercury, Dec. 13, 1960.

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