NASA's scientific advisory community first addressed the role of the astronaut in space science at the Iowa Summer Study in 1962 [see Chapter 2 and Chapter 3]. Concerning humans on the moon, the study report stated the belief that it is extremely important for at least one crew member of each Apollo lunar mission to possess the maximum scientific ability and training consistent with his required contribution to spacecraft operations.
This person should participate "in the earliest possible lunar missions," and, since the chosen mode of operations called for only two men on the lunar surface, "the maximum scientific return will be achieved only if the scientist himself lands on the Moon."7
A working group of the 1962 summer study considered in detail the role of people in space exploration, formulating the scientists' position with reference to science missions of many types, not merely lunar exploration. The group defined several combinations of scientific and astronautic skills that would be appropriate for different degrees of scientific participation in manned space missions. At the top of the scale was the "scientist-astronaut"; fully trained both as a scientist and as an astronaut, he could operate the spacecraft as well as make valid scientific observations. For the long term, the working group recommended creating an Institute for Advanced Space Study - a graduate-level institute with a unique curriculum in which candidates holding bachelor's degrees would be trained as scientist-astronauts [see Chapter 3]. Meanwhile, aspirants to this position should be recruited from among qualified scientists and trained to achieve comparable qualifications as astronauts.8
The working group recognized that no such scientist-astronauts could be trained in time for a lunar landing within the decade. For the short term, they acknowledged that the best course was to give qualified astronauts as much training in science as possible, so that they could be useful observers for the scientist on the ground. These "astronaut-observers" were expected to play a role in lunar exploration even after fully trained scientist-astronauts became available. Others who would be important in conducting space science missions were the "ground scientist," a scientist thoroughly familiar with all the details of space flight operations, who would direct the activities of the astronaut-observer from the ground; and the "scientist-passenger,"* a scientist physically qualified for space flight but not trained to operate the spacecraft.9
Not surprisingly, the summer study report repeatedly emphasized the need
for the scientist-astronaut to keep up with his science; the scientist
who does not maintain a continuous research program falls behind his
colleagues who do and loses his standing in the scientific community. At
the same time, the tone of the working group's findings implied that the
techniques of operating the spacecraft could be learned by any
intelligent person in a couple of years and were therefore of subsidiary
importance. The level of comprehension of the astronaut's task was
indicated by the responses - summarized in the report - to a
questionnaire sent by the Space Science Board to a number of scientists.
On the question of whether the first scientist on the moon should also
be an astronaut, the consensus of those responding was:
Of course. He should be familiar with all aspects of
the spacecraft and be able to take over in an emergency. However, his
qualification as a crew member would not depend so much on his ability
as a space-pilot as on his scientific aptitude.
To the question of how astronaut-scientists should be developed, the
scientists replied that graduate students or early postdoctoral fellows
should be picked and trained
for at least four or five years. They should go
through astronaut training for part of each year to become familiar with
the problems of space flight. It is hoped that this would not involve
too large a fraction of their time [emphasis added], since emphasis
should be on their development as scientists.10
In 1962, of course, few people fully understood the demands that would
be made of Apollo crews; but if these statements reflected opinions
widely held in the science community concerning the training required to
become a proficient astronaut, it is not surprising that
misunderstandings developed when the time came to choose crews for the
lunar landing missions.
* Fifteen years would pass before NASA had scientist-passengers, now known as "mission specialists" and "payload specialists," who began flying on Shuttle missions in the early 1980s.
7. National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council, A Review of Space Research, report of the summer study conducted under the auspices of the Space Science Board, NAS-NRC Publication 1079 (Washington, 1962), p. 1-22.
8. Ibid., pp. 11-1 to 11-16.
9. Ibid., pp. 11-8 to 11-12.
10. Ibid., pp. 11-17 to 11-19.