History of Research in Space Biology and Biodynamics
 
 
- PART III -
 
The Present Outlook for Experimentation in Subgravity Conditions
 
 
 
[40] In the spring of 1958, Captain Scheck put forward a "philosophy of weightlessness research" in the following terms:33
 
To date investigations of the biological effects of weightlessness have been confined almost entirely to observations on the effects of weightlessness on orientation and coordination of animal and human subjects. There is a definite need for this type of research. However, only short periods of weightlessness have been obtained in jet flights and rocket flights. The use of Ballistic Missiles and Bio-Satellites affords a chance for experimentation into the effects of prolonged weightlessness.
 
Using these methods, biological research should be channeled away from an observation experimentation to a [more strictly] experimental approach. Specifically, investigations should be undertaken into recording the effects of weightlessness on the utricular mechanism, possible loss of reflexes, and greatly enlarged recordings of physiological data when these parameters are controlled by the autonomic nervous systems. The effects of prolonged sensory deprivation--and true weightlessness can be considered a sensory-starved environment--must be energetically investigated. The use of water or other appropriately diluted solutions affords an excellent method of investigating the effects of sensory deprivation.
 
The psychology of exposure to weightlessness has been little investigated. Past research has tempted to record incidences of "motion sickness" without really tying down the etiology. Perhaps this is autonomically controlled, but perhaps it is psychologically induced.
 
The effects of pre-weightlessness accelerations and post-weightlessness accelerations have been little considered in the past. The profile of a Bio-Satellite launching reveals that immediately after burnout any biological system in the nose cone is subjected to weightlessness immediately after a rather large acceleration. What the consequences of this may be is unknown. Conversely during re-entry the effect of high accelerations subsequent to prolonged exposure to weightlessness are purely conjectural. Simulating these conditions is [41] difficult using either the centrifuge or deceleration tracks. It is in these problem areas that future zero gravity research must be directed.
 

Subgravity studies at the Aeromedical Field Laboratory are at present attempting to meet many of the objectives stated by Captain Schock. As indicated above, pre- and post-weightlessness accelerations are the subject of a series of test flights being conducted by Doctor von Beckh. Similarly, in order to continue study of "the effects of sensory deprivation" on a body under water, the laboratory is preparing a small tank or pool of its own. This facility will measure just twelve feet wide by twelve feet deep and will be equipped for heating; thus the water can be maintained at skin temperature, the better to produce "a sensory-starved environment." 34

 
But there is also a definite need for more advanced test vehicles. The F-94C still has not outlived its usefulness; nevertheless, substantially longer intervals of subgravity could be achieved either in century-series fighters or in certain types of missiles. One obvious step would be to progress from the F-94 to the F-100, which has been the standard chase aircraft on the Holloman range since 1956. In fact plans already exist to use this aircraft type in the subgravity program. But the two-seat F-100F, which would be required for the test flights, is in rather short supply. The first one reached Holloman only in the fall of 1957, with photographic chase as its primary mission, and because of modifications needed for subgravity work, none has been made available as yet for subgravity studies.35
 
For animal experiments, the Aerobee is again a possibility, offering up to three and a half minutes of subgravity, although a later model would be involved than the one used previously for biological research at Holloman. Better still would be a long-range ballistic missile, but the "ultimate" test vehicle for subgravity research with either animal or human subjects is the biological satellite. Only the satellite can provide a test environment that is truly "space-equivalent" in duration of exposure as well as in the mere presence of weightlessness.36
 
Naturally, any test program involving intermediate or intercontinental ballistic missiles or satellite vehicles must involve more than one research organization. In any program of this sort, however, the Aeromedical Field Laboratory can be expected to take part. There is currently an "in-house" effort under Captain Schock directed toward the use of ballistic missiles in aeromedical research. Similarly, the laboratory's present chief, Doctor (Lieutenant Colonel) David G. Simons, is head of the interservice Biosatellite Coordination Committee. Several other members of the laboratory staff, including Captain Schock, belong to the same committee, and Captain Schock is currently devoting much of his time to this work. Among other things, he is initiating a series of research contracts between the Air Force Missile Development Center and outside scientists in support of the biosatellite program. One such contract, for example, will be designed to provide a satellite experiment on possible degeneration of muscle tone in animals as a result of prolonged exposure to weightlessness.37
 
There are, of course, more reasons than a background in subgravity studies for the prominent role of the Aeromedical Field Laboratory in biosatellite planning. The Holloman laboratory has also been engaged in active research (as in Project Man-High) on sealed cabin environment and on recovery of biological capsules. In all these fields, it has much to contribute toward a successful biosatellite program and toward man's ultimate conquest of space. Its contributions, moreover, will be the fitting culmination of a record of achievement that really began when Holloman Air Force Base provided essential support to the very first United States experiments in weightlessness and space biology.
 

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