History of Research in Space Biology and Biodynamics
[91] One of the principal organizations now participating in the United States Air Force's "Man in Space" program is the Aeromedical Field Laboratory of the Air Force Missile Development Center, located at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. It is a small organization in terms of people and facilities, but it is one of the best known units of the entire Center, and one that has made important contributions to knowledge in the two broad fields of space biology and biodynamics. These contributions include rocket-track experiments on windblast and deceleration, extended high-altitude balloon flights with human and animal subjects, and much else besides.
The record of achievement in these fields at Holloman Air Force Base goes back to the immediate post-war years, even before the Aeromedical Field Laboratory was established. Space biology as a clearly defined field of research really began in southern New Mexico with the series of rocket flights starting in 1946 that carried fruit flies, fungus spores, and small mammals to the extreme upper atmosphere. These experiments were sponsored by different agencies, principally the Aero Medical Laboratory at Wright Field in Ohio; and the earliest launchings were all made from the Army's White Sands Proving Ground, located across the Tularosa Basin from Holloman. But Holloman played a support role in all these experiments, and in 1950 became a launch site for research balloon flights designed to study the biological effects of cosmic radiation. During 1951 and 1952, three major biological rocket flights were launched directly from Holloman. On all three flights the Aerobee research rocket was used, chiefly to explore the effects of weightlessness on mice and monkeys.1
Both balloon flights and Aerobee firings were activities of the Aero Medical Laboratory at Wright Field, which by then formed part of the Wright Air Development Center. The Aeromedical Field Laboratory was created in 1951 precisely as a support facility for these Wright Field projects, and as a dependency (or "field" station) of the much larger aeromedical laboratory in Ohio. However, in January 1953 the Aeromedical Field Laboratory became instead a regularly-assigned Holloman unit. Holloman's official mission was rewritten at the same time to include, specifically, research in biomedical sciences.2 There followed a rapid expansion of aeromedical and related research at Holloman, in the course of which early efforts in space biology were continued and intensified and new tasks were added in the field of biodynamics.
These changes coincided roughly with a general reorganization of Holloman activities. Just as the Aeromedical Field Laboratory had formerly been subordinate to the laboratory at Wright Field, from July 1951 to August 1952 the New Mexico test installation as a whole had been a dependency of the Air Force Missile Test Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. However, the base was removed from the Missile Test Center's jurisdiction 1 September 1952, and on 10 October of the same year, Holloman Air Development Center was created as one of the full-fledged Centers of Air Research and Development Command.3 (On I September 1957, the name changed again to Air Force Missile Development Center.)
This elevation to Center status was originally made in recognition of the steady growth of Holloman test and development activities, and it gave assurance that growth would continue at a steady pace over the following years. It was only natural that aeromedical research should share in the general process of expansion, and that the now-independent Center should assume direct responsibility for operation of the Aeromedical Field Laboratory.