Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Bed Pilot Pioneer


The ultimate "unsung hero" to us modern pillownauts... so we're going to do some singing!

Dr. Duane Graveline was the first scientist to conduct a space flight simulation study to analyze the effects of weightlessness on the human body. He entered the USAF Medical Service in 1955 to study aviation medicine, and was granted the rating of "Flight Surgeon" in February 1957.

Graveline went to Brooks AFB Aerospace Medical Laboratory in 1960, where his specialized research involved bed rest and water immersion to study biological changes in extended micro-gravity.

NASA Astronaut
In June 1965, Dr. Graveline was selected with NASA's fourth group of scientist astronauts for jet pilot training, supporting the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo eras as a flight controller. This man who laid the groundwork for astronaut biodata (from Enos the Chimp to Alan Shepard!) also developed the lower body negative pressure device for zero-G tolerance testing – used in Skylab, Mir, Shuttles and the ISS.

Now 81, Graveline is the author of medical books, science fiction, and a fantastic website of collected medical research adn articles conducted by practicing or retired doctors who have no influence by or affiliation with any pharmaceutical companies. Anyone applying for the current studies should definitely read his essays in the Space Medicine section, particularly:
  • Astronaut Post-Flight Syncope
  • Body Fluid Changes in Space
  • Bone Demineralization
  • Musculoskeletal Deconditioning
  • Retinal Flashes and the Moon
  • Stress Exercise Dangers
  • Tilt Table Testing (You have to do this if you join a NASA study!)
  • Weightlessness
Key excerpt: "...assigned to Bruno, one of Von Braun's rigid German scientists. We were to study bed rest de-conditioning, aka couch potato assessment under the old adage: don't use it, you lose it. We would go from a two-week bed rest study to one of freely floating in a tank of water for one week. Now we have proof from MIR and the ISS of Mother Earth's gravitational demands that even with two hours of aggressive exercise daily, we are barely are able to stand on return..."

Laika Book Duane Graveline

Graveline also wrote a fascinating book about his time as an Aerospace Medical Analyst for the USAF Foreign Technology Team in the late 1950s.  The Soviets were far ahead of the USA at the time, and his unique, super-secret affiliation with their BioAstronautics program gave him some very different insights about space travel compared to other astronauts training in that early era.

He was part of a small crowd of medical scientists who reviewed preparations and steps for Laika the Dog for her ride on Sputnik2; contrary to many urban legends and conspiracy theories, he personally confirms Laika's electrocardiograms in November of 1957, and that she survived at least the first two days in orbit.  He would also get to later review the biotelemetry of cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov. Check out "From Laika With Love" on Amazon!