HomeNewsDisplay

News Search

This Month in AFMS History: First Space Medicine Symposium

U.S. Air Force Aeromedical Laboratory scientists test a prone-position “pilot bed,” on February 3, 1949. AFRL designed the bed to relieve the gravitational stress on pilots, as part of research to solve medical challenges presented by space flight. (U.S Air Force photo)

U.S. Air Force Aeromedical Laboratory scientists test a prone-position “pilot bed,” on February 3, 1949. AFRL designed the bed to relieve the gravitational stress on pilots, as part of research to solve medical challenges presented by space flight. (U.S Air Force photo)

The rocket-powered Bell X-1 experimental aircraft. Pilots who flew the X-1 experienced weightlessness for a few seconds when they completed a climb. (NASA photo)

The rocket-powered Bell X-1 experimental aircraft. Pilots who flew the X-1 experienced weightlessness for a few seconds when they completed a climb. (NASA photo)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- On November 12, 1948, Air Force Brig. Gen. Harry Armstrong, commandant of the School of Aviation at Randolph Field, Texas, convened the first Air Force symposium on space medicine.

Eleven scientists, doctors, and military officers gathered to discuss their research and findings on aeromedical problems found in space flight. This groundbreaking symposium helped lay groundwork for future space travel, culminating in humanity walking on the Moon.

Armstrong hosted the event, and picked astrophysicist Heinz Haber to give the opening remarks. Haber, a former German scientist who came to the United States after World War II as part of Operation Paperclip, presented information to give the assembled medical professionals a sense of what the human body would have to endure during space flight. His remarks explained many of the basic principles of rocket propulsion and celestial mechanics.

The audience, all scientific professionals, considered Haber’s information, “exotic—and often baffling,” according to Green Payton, an historian with the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine.

Haber lectured on the high speeds needed to achieve and maintain orbit, some 24,985 miles per hour. But he went further, explaining escape velocity, the speeds needed to depart the Earth, and the possibility of orbiting the Sun. He also explained the weightlessness of space, something new to everyone except a handful of pilots who had experienced it for a few seconds in the Bell X-1 rocket craft at the top of its climb, before dropping back into the atmosphere.

The symposium’s panels then discussed various topics related to health and space, including the effects of solar and cosmic radiation, the flyer’s orientation in space, temperature variations, the risk of meteor collisions, gas pressures and compositions within a spacecraft, astronaut isolation and confinement, and planetary environments other than Earth. The collective works encapsulated the state of space science and assessed the medical challenges of manned space travel.

The symposium confirmed to Armstrong that space medicine needed a firm foundation to provide safety for future astronauts. On the success of the symposium, Armstrong oversaw the creation of the U.S. Air Force’s Department of Space Medicine three months later.
Air Force Medicine

Engage

Facebook Twitter
Lt. Gen. Hogg addressed AFMS leaders at #SLW18. "Now is time to shape the future of AFMS. Be disruptive innovators… https://t.co/mtYGTim0bO
6th MDG Airmen & Coast Guard members participate in a joint service Tactical Combat Casualty Care course at MacDill… https://t.co/2bU0vRubJB
#TBT: A U.S. Army flight nurse checks on a combat litter patient as he is loaded aboard a Douglas C-47 Skytrain at… https://t.co/xikEkX5bGI
RT @TRICARE: DYK? The TRICARE Open Season ends Dec. 10, 2018. Learn more about the next TRICARE webinar on Enrollment Options After TRICARE…
RT @USAFRecruiting: Air Force #Career: Prosthodontist. These specialists’ expertise in oral prostheses corrects dental appearance and makes…
Being safe is one of the easiest things you can accomplish every day and has direct impact on your health. Here are… https://t.co/0G8JnOnbKj
Our culture of #TrustedCare depends on continuous innovation. "Our hope is that local leaders will leverage our Tru… https://t.co/KhhMQr41vR
We make a difference. We are warriors. We are disruptive innovators. We are Airmen from the 17 enlisted medical car… https://t.co/8Gjy20uPQw
Medical material Airmen are working together with the 1st Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron to help r… https://t.co/JGu1vcCC6I
U.S. Air National Guard A1C Cheryl Graham, a health services technician with the 118th Medical Group, was a high pe… https://t.co/0Vn7xPkch3
RT @DHADirector: As the @DOD_DHA continues to integrate hospitals and the services, it's important to keep everyone informed on what's to c…
RT @DoDHealth: Had a great opportunity to speak with @USAFhealth leaders today. I look forward to our continued partnership to achieve a mo…
To ensure an effective relationships between military working dogs & their handlers, the 380th MDG, 380th Security… https://t.co/nmNRfg3C9X
The 2018 AFMS Senior Leadership Workshop kicked off this morning with welcome remarks by Lt Gen. Dorothy Hogg and C… https://t.co/YGbo4427iA
Eccrine Systems is conducting research under an Air Force Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Tec… https://t.co/bE6Tpz0BYo
Check out the highlights of what happened around the AFMS in November 2018! https://t.co/e8jkhac14K
“Young Airmen are critical to the AFMS journey to Zero Harm. They are the ones carrying the torch and will champion… https://t.co/rrrKKyBv11
SrA Casey Mulcahy noticed a twitch in a baby’s eyes upon postpartum discharge during labor & immediately notified t… https://t.co/lk6h5kpXrB
The AFMS is currently transitioning control of MTFs to the Defense Health Agency. The transition maximizes efficien… https://t.co/V3Ou8pprZr
RT @usairforce: Celebrating 77 years of supporting America's communities with #emergencyresponse, diverse #aviation and ground services, yo…