Dr. William Randolph (Randy) Lovelace II devised and administered the physical examinations for the original Mercury astronaut candidates in early 1959. At the time, Dr. Lovelace was head of NASA's Special Life Sciences Committee. He wrote an article for the April 20, 1959, issue of Life magazine, describing the astronaut candidate examination program. These excerpts come from that article:

On Saturday afternoon, Feb. 7, six cheerful, trim-looking men in civilian clothes got off a plane in Albuquerque, N. Mex. They were the first of a number of Project Mercury candidates---32 men in all---to undergo one of the toughest medical examinations in history. The examinations took place at the Lovelace Clinic and Foundation, which had been selected in part because its geographical isolation simplified NASA's security problem....

[T]he 7½ days that followed were crowded with appointments from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on three occasions the tests were to run well into the evening....

As each group finished the week's examination at Lovelace, it relaxed and had a chance to meet the incoming group. Since test pilots constitute a small, select fraternity and many of them already knew each other, these meetings included a lot of ribbing. Part of the ritual was an unsolicited, straight-faced indoctrination lecture which the outgoing group gave the newcomers. In the lecture all hypodermic needles became square and blunt, proctoscopes took on the proportions of the Palomar [Observatory] telescope, and all enemas and blood samples were ocean-sized.
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The 2013 International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight was held on October 16 and 17. The conference has been held annually in Las Cruces since 2005. Following are comments made by speakers at ISPCS 2013:

"Consumers have spent more than 150 million dollars in the last three weeks on the movie Gravity. Consumers will pay for what they want. They are loving that movie. It's a consumer product for our industry. One reviewer stated, 'Most of the moviegoers likely feel watching the movie is as close as they will get to experiencing what it's like to be in outer space.' Au contraire. Enter The Space Race, Virgin Galactic's upcoming TV series." -- Dr. Patricia Hynes, Chair of ISPCS

"I learned with Spaceport America that there's this phenomenal sense that we are at the 'barnstorming' stage of the next generation of space. This is the stage where the guy took the biplane, and flew it across the countryside, and gave rides for a dollar, and wing walkers were out there, and it was the first time that anybody saw an aircraft. That's where we are with this next wave of space.... We think the public is extremely excited." -- Bob Allen, Executive Director of IDEAS, the designer of the upcoming visitors' experience at Spaceport America

"I want all of you to be able to fly to space.... I think that the impact that you can have on your community by doing that is going to be huge. You can be the visionary. You can be the explorer. And we want to help you do that."  
Andrew Nelson, Chief Operating Officer of XCOR Aerospace
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"What is the world's fastest computer and how fast is it? Currently, it's an HP notebook. It's used on the Space Shuttle to compute orbital position and has been clocked at 17,500 mph."
-- Supercomputer programmer Robert Hyatt

"Like Elon Musk, Branson dreams of sending human beings to Mars. 'One way. The cost of a return trip is going to be horrendous,' he says. 'There will be plenty of volunteers.' He's already conducted some research. Just before April 1, 2008, Branson and Larry Page -- after a night in a bar -- announced the formation of a new joint venture, 'Virgle: The Adventure of Many Lifetimes,' accepting candidates to colonise the Red Planet. The proposal was revealed as an April Fool a few hours later. 'We had hundreds of people apply,' Branson says." -- Wired magazine, March 2013

"It is always a pleasure and privilege to attend any of Pat's NMSGC Team activities. The right stuff people, place, and spirit are there sharing ideas, vision, and encouragement on the horizon of our hopeful future!" -- Allan Lockheed after the June 2013 student launch at Spaceport America sponsored by the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium and NASA

"White Sands is old history. People don't know what we did out there. They don't know that we were the kindergarten of the space program." Cynthia Sommers-Guzevich's oral history

"Manhigh II was interesting because in those days, we were the space program." Duke Gildenberg's oral history

"[Looking back, thirty years after your flight, where do you think Manhigh fits within the history of space exploration?] One thing it certainly deserves credit for is that we made that flight before Sputnik flew, about a month, and in that sense, we were truly space pioneers. Before the flight, usually, the official attitude within the Air Force and generally within the country, at that time, was that space research was a misuse of scarce dollars, that it had no military or civilian use, and that we were a bunch of visionaries who were squandering money. (laugh) Also, when Sputnik did fly, our flight did help Americans feel like we weren't totally behind in foresight and interest in the future. There was some offset to the impact of Sputnik. We had something to point to, also. These things fire the imagination of the young people." David Simon's oral history

New Mexico students, ranging from middle school through university, have a special opportunity to participate in the Student Launch Program conducted by the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium. On June 21, 2013, seven experiments designed and built by student teams were launched from Spaceport America. After reaching an altitude of 74 miles in its fourteen-minute flight, the rocket landed 23 miles away on White Sands Missile Range. The rocket and its contents experienced up to 17 g's and four minutes of microgravity ("weightlessness"). Within three hours, the student payloads were retrieved, removed from the rocket, and brought to the observation area. There, sixty students who had watched the launch were able to retrieve their teams' experiments. Since 2009, the Student Launch Program has provided suborbital flights for 76 experiments prepared by 827 students.

New Mexico Space Grant Consortium Director Pat Hynes described the middle school experiments: "Students were asked to propose experiments using algae because NASA is interested in technologies that enable humans to live and work in space. Algae can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere inside the space station. It can also produce crude oil which can be refined into bio-fuels for aviation, another research area of NASA's. Algae is also non-toxic, inexpensive and can be used by students without much risk to their health."

Three of the middle school students who watched the launch had these comments:

        "This isn't something you can do every day, especially for young people like us. That feeling of seeing something you built fly up into space is incredible. It is just a whole new level of learning." Emerson Schoeppner, 13

        "It was awesome seeing it go up and all the smoke with it." Lisa Barrera, 10

        "It's pretty exciting to finally see the rocket go up and know the result." David Cervantes, 13

"After the flight, the health and growth rate of the cultures that went to space were compared to cultures that remained on the ground," Dr. Hynes said. "Some of the experiments leaked during flight and the algae were 'disadvantaged.' But, by July 1st, all flown cultures, including the 'disadvantaged,' were reproducing similarly to the controls on the ground."

In addition to student experiments, the June 2013 launch carried payloads for the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Defense, the US Air Force Operationally Responsive Space Office, and several private companies.

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"Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor." Wernher von Braun

"We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming." Wernher von Braun

"While for many years, and on two continents, the more immediate task (and the one for which alone support was available) was to build rockets as weapons of war, our long-range objective has remained unchanged to this very day---the continuous evolution of space flight." Wernher von Braun

"Science fiction turned into reality, and it happened here [at Holloman Air Force Base]." Donald L. Cooper oral history interview

"There is a tendency to give all the reward and recognition to the man who cements the last brick in a high wall that's been building for years. The man who laid the bottom brick is most important. Then there are all the other 'bricklayers' in between who sweated out the construction." Dr. James P. Henry, director of Project Mercury's animal program at the Holloman Aeromedical Laboratory in Alamogordo, NM

"We wanted a relatively high region with a minimum of rain and snowfall, a minimum of cloudiness, and freedom from fog. We ... wanted good outdoor working weather the year round, and good visibility on every score. With these conditions overhead and surrounding us, our final need was for good, level ground underfoot, and a great deal of it. Above all, we wanted ground with a minimum of people and houses on it, where rockets could rise, or crash, or even explode without wear and tear on neighbors' nerves." Robert Goddard explaining why he chose to move to Roswell, New Mexico, for his rocket research

"I can remember Dave Simons. I went to visit him after he became a doctor with the FAA in California, and I hadn't seen him about eight years, on a business trip there to say hello. And he said something like 'Did we really know what we were doing back then?' And I said, 'Well, that was the purpose, Dave. If we knew what we were doing there was no point in doing it.'" -- Duke Gildenberg in an oral history interview

"We were much less interested in find a man who wanted to prove he could 'take it' than in a man who sincerely wanted to go aloft to learn something of value to mankind." -- David Simons, pilot of Manhigh II

"Colonel Simons, I see the most fantastic thing, the sky that you described. It's blacker than black, but it's saturated with blue like you said. I honestly can't describe it to you. I'm looking at it, but it seems more like I'm feeling it. It's literally indescribable." -- Clifton McClure, pilot of Manhigh III
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Wernher von Braun:

"[Dr. Goddard's] rockets, which were flown starting in 1926, may have been rather crude by present-day standards, but they blazed the trail and incorporated many features used in our most modern rockets and space vehicles."

"There is just one thing I can promise you about the outer-space program: you tax dollar will go farther."

"Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."

"I have learned to use the word impossible with the greatest caution."
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Excerpts from "The Secrets of White Sands," by Milton Lehman in The Saturday Evening Post, March 27, 1954:

"Despite the deeds of Nike, Corporal and Honest John [missiles successfully tested at White Sands Proving Ground], the chorus of scientists still chants of the moon, the planets and outer space. What we've done thus far, they say, is primitive compared to what we might do."

"'First of all,' I told [Clyde Tombaugh, head of optical measurements at White Sands Proving Ground] briskly, 'I'm looking for a down-to-earth account of guided missiles---what they can do, how they work, that short of thing. We've all heard enough nonsense about flying saucers and bodies in space.'
        'Nonsense?' Tombaugh inquired....
        'Now, Mr. Tombaugh,' I tried once more, 'let's get down to fundamentals. You are spending your days on missiles and rockets. Seriously, what are you looking for?' The noted astronomer sighed and then spoke so quietly that I had to lean forward to hear him. 'I would say,' he stated deliberately, 'that I am looking for a means of transport.' Tombaugh, I decided, was deadly serious. He was talking about transport to outer space."

"At Holloman Air Development Center, on the edge of White Sands, the Air Force last year revealed that two monkeys and two white mice had survived a rocket flight thirty-eight miles above the desert. (The moon is 238,819 miles farther.) .... As a result of this voyage, I discovered, the Air Force received letters from several dozen Americans who volunteered their services for the next space flight. The Air Force replied to these letters with caution. They said simply that no human flights were contemplated."
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"If you mentioned the word space, your appropriations would be cut for wasting the people's money on foolish things." -- NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh Dryden in 1958, speaking about the pre-Sputnik era.

"Almost 12 years ago a group of people with whom I was associated designed a large vehicle capable of orbiting the Earth.... None of us went ahead with the job because the American people decided not to. We did not know how to sell it to them." -- Martin Company Vice President of Engineering George Trimble, at a 1959 congressional hearing about the US trailing the Soviet Union in space

"Although the plans for Project Mercury, the first US man-in-space program, had not yet been drawn, Man High was to be the laboratory in which the selection of the Mercury astronauts would be tested." -- David Simons, head of the Manhigh program at Holloman Air Force Base and pilot of Manhigh II, in his autobiography, Man High

"Each also was given an arduous physical examination at the famed Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in which they were subjected to virtually every physical and chemical test possible for a human being." -- David Simons, head of the Manhigh program at Holloman Air Force Base and pilot of Manhigh II, in his autobiography, Man High

"The question of motivation was considered most important. An attempt was made to elicit the true reason the individual wished to be considered as pilot for the [Manhigh III] flight. Was the individual interested in proving something to himself, or about himself to others, or was he primarily motivated to explore the unknown and advance the frontiers of scientific knowledge? Individuals with the former motivation would not only be more likely to fail under extreme stress, but would be much less likely to obtain an optimum amount of high quality research data." -- David Simons and Eli Beeding, writing in the Manhigh III final report

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Photo Credits
Robert Goddard towing one of his rockets to the launch site near Roswell about 1931, courtesy of NASA.

WhiteKnightTwo carrying SpaceShipTwo at Spaceport America runway dedication flyover, photo by Loretta Hall.
Unless otherwise credited, all material on this site is © Loretta Hall 2010-2015.
New Mexico's Space Voices Archives, 2013
Out of this World was named Best New Mexico Book in the 2011 New Mexico Book Awards.