Space Center Oral History Project
Edited Oral History Transcript
Interviewed by Jennifer Ross-Nazzal
Houston, Texas and New Brunswick, New Jersey – 18 July 2007
Today is July 18th, 2007. This telephone oral history with Dr. Paul
Lachance is being conducted for the Johnson Space Center Oral History
Project in Houston, Texas, and in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Jennifer
Ross-Nazzal is the interviewer, and she is assisted by Rebecca Wright.
Thanks again for taking time to meet with us today. I’d like
to begin by talking about your work on the Gemini experiments that
you touched on in our last interview last year.
In Project Mercury the issues were very simple questions. They were
questions like how does swallowing work; does what goes in one end
come out the other end? And there was debate amongst the Flight Surgeon
Corps. Some said it will be a problem, because it might be weightless
in the esophagus or whatever, and might have blockage or aspiration,
which was the big issue, that they might, even though we had all the
positive data from the Russians, who had done it before we did, but
even before that with the chimpanzees. They had no problem, but they
were eating one pellet at a time. It was not a diverse food system
of any type.
So one of the things that was done on Mercury was to test various
kinds of foods. The flights were so short that that was not even an
issue in the early flights. The longest flights were around thirty-four,
thirty-five hours. That needed little sustenance. So various little
bite-sized foods were made up. One of them that comes to mind is malted
milk tablets, which were, you know, across-the-counter kind of thing,
and then tube food of various types.
We had developed the tube food for the use with the U-2, which I helped
to evaluate—the U-2 pilots, the spy plane, because they stayed
in their space suits at very high altitudes, as you may remember or
know. So we just simply adapted that so that it could be consumed
through the faceplate through a special—that was done for the
U-2s. It had to be modified for Gemini and Apollo, and in fact, one
of my major undertakings is that suit.
Aerospace suits were different. The Gemini Office had its own paraphernalia
and plans and systems operations, and Apollo was separate from that,
different contractors. One of the things I ran into right away was
that there was a difference in the size of those ports in the faceplates
for drinking water, if you were stuck living in the suit itself, not
being able to take the helmet off or something like that. We also
wanted to measure water intake.
So it took me about six months to get the two flight suit companies
to agree on a common number size port; I can’t remember what
it is, but there’s a drawing to that effect. Then we adapted
the gun, which was a gun, basically it looked like a gun, water gun,
with a meter so that you could measure how much, how many ounces were
being consumed, and it could be recorded manually by the astronaut.
So that was that scenario.
So along comes Gemini, which had the definite mandate of fourteen
days to simulate what it would take to go to the Moon and back again.
So that feeding system was fairly elaborate. It had a four-day, five-day
cycle. In other words, you didn’t repeat the food items in the
meals till the fourth or fifth day. Actually, in Skylab and in the
other subsequent flights you find an extension of that, because more
food becomes available. We worked with about forty-seven to fifty
foods. They worked with seventy to seventy-five foods, or at least
we offered that in the model that we started making, planning ahead
That has expanded, and nowadays the Russians supply half the food,
and the Americans supply the other half, and they share a number of
things. The Russians always had a simpler system of food choices.
They even included alcohol, which we didn’t permit. But time
goes on, and one learns from the other that it’s not a bad idea
to have a little snort once in a while.
Why was that decision made, Paul? That was one of the questions that
I wanted to ask you. And who made that decision not to include alcohol
Well, the Chief Flight Surgeon did that, Chuck [Charles A.] Berry.
He was head of Medical Operations, and the whole shooting match, including
Crew Systems. They decided without even asking that they wanted no
coffee—no stimulants. So that’s why we came down to one
The initial beverage, which is a story in itself, we didn’t
fly Tang® right off the bat. On Gemini III we flew juice crystals,
apple juice crystals, grapefruit juice crystals, which are made by
processing, you know, into a powder, a puree of the material. But,
as we were afraid might happen, is that the temperature that these
storage containers for food were in the back wall, and they’re
exposed to some of the heat of the liftoff.
That was enough to crystallize the juices, so that what you did is
you made a hard candy as a result of that. So you could put water
in and shake it and shake it forever—well, not forever, but,
you know, for hours on end, and not get much of a drink out of it.
Not flavorful, anyway; you could get the water part, but you wouldn’t
get—but we already knew that General Foods was making a product
We modified it by adding calcium to it and a few other little things.
We made some flavor combinations that were not sold commercially.
But at any rate, that melts around 280, 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and
so we never had the problem again of crystallization of juices, of
beverages. And that was the sole beverage. They were allowed a choice
of beverages, whether it was orange or orange-pineapple or whatever
flavor. There was quite a few of them available, and they could tell
us which ones they liked.
We had them taste every food, and there were some foods that were
not consumed by certain astronauts. For example—I won’t
name names—they would not eat any seafood, and we had a very
nice shrimp, small bitty shrimp dish, dehydrated, that was liked by
the astronauts except those who would not eat fish. So I’d go
back to them, to that individual, and say, “Well, you have your
choice. Do you want turkey instead, or do you want beef, another beef,
or chicken, or whatever?” So there were alternates available,
in that sense. So that was that.
But at any rate, to answer your question, initially the front office,
the chief had a lot to say about that, and the astronauts were big
coffee drinkers. It was a disappointment to them, and it did become
allowed in the later Apollo flights, and then subsequently after that
it was a routine drink. But for whatever reason, they felt it might
One reason I can think of, from a medical-experiment point of view,
is that of the eight or so medical experiments that were conducted
once or twice or several times during the Gemini mission, one of them
was on sleep. There was only one flight that had that; it was Gemini
VII, and they had electrodes, EEG [Electroencephalogram] electrodes,
put on their scalp, and then this helmet had to be adapted to fit
on top of that. Obviously, if you were running an experiment using
stimulants or something that might affect the sleep time, that would
be a no-no.
But the rule actually was put out before that, just in general. I’m
just saying there is one experiment that did justify it, for lack
of a better way of saying. The experiment didn’t last too long.
It didn’t go the whole length of the mission, because hair would
regrow underneath the electrodes and pop them off, and the astronauts
weren’t anxious to have them on their heads, anyway. Just a
nuisance for them.
I can imagine.
Once you’re up there, you’re in charge. You can change
things if you want to. They traded food, for example. I knew that
would happen, and I said to them, “Just log it, and then we’ll
know how to count it. We’ll just multiply it out a little differently,
turkey versus shrimp, or whatever.” But the logs were so-so.
I mean, they tried very hard; wonderful crew, Gemini VII. Well, they
were all wonderful crews, what I mean by that, that was not the tedious
That was also a flight in which they slept more, because they just
were flying fourteen days, and they were able to do only so many experiments
and do only so much limited exercise that they were capable of doing.
There was no movement from the seat. You’re just strapped into—or
you can float a little bit, but there’s no—if you look
at the spacecraft; I don’t know if you’ve ever crawled
into one, but you ought to try it, if they’ll let you. There’s
not much space, especially with a suit on.
Then on top of that you have to be able to unzip the suit to go to
the bathroom, so it’s a little bit of an undertaking to do even
things like that. As far as other conditions, bowel movements, you
had to be a good friend to your buddy, put up with odors and things
like that, although they were fairly decent.
The menus were low residue, preflight; in other words, up to four
days they had very little foods—in other words, you wouldn’t
have a lot of grains. You wouldn’t have a lot of vegetables.
We didn’t have that many vegetables to begin with, but the point
was that they didn’t want to have to go to the bathroom. It
was such a tedious and difficult undertaking.
So they had to make a—I lost my train of thought.
You were talking about the astronauts going to the bathroom in space
and low-residue diets.
Yes, right. Oh, the residue diets. So that had an effect. In other
words, what happened is they would not have to defecate for about
three to four days. They’d do it on purpose to not have to go
because of the difficulty of the undertaking.
Then, of course, there were two parts to that. Of course, the urinary
path, that was a tube. The first flight, Gemini III, the amount of
urine was actually put in a tank, and it was stored on board. They
didn’t want to have any penetration to the spacecraft that might
leak, but there was a limit. You couldn’t continue to do that.
You were the storing the water that was storing the urine, and we
were interested in the samples of urine from Gemini VII, of course.
We wanted to be able to measure calcium balance and other tests of
urine, so we had to find a way to take samples.
So anyway, to go back to the initial thing, first in the earlier Gemini,
I can’t remember whether it was IV or V; well, actually, it
was on IV and on V. They actually made a penetration spacecraft where
you could open a valve, and the urine could flow out right into the—well,
there’s no atmosphere, but call it atmosphere for lack of a
better term. [Laughter]
It was [Walter M.] Schirra on V[I] who came to the press conference
and just kind of made a comment that if there was a beautiful picture
he’d taken through the window of these objects of different
colors beaming off the Sun, showing up. He said, “And this is
Constellation Urion,” and he needn’t say anymore. The
press didn’t pick up right away that that was really freeze-dried
urine going by the spacecraft window, and that we actually leave a
few things behind up there.
But for Gemini VII we needed fourteen days of storage. We would never
have found space to do that, and store the water, too, because every
pound of weight of any type, people and equipment, takes a thousand
pounds of thrust to put into orbit. So you weigh everything, even
including the contents of their pockets. That’s how close the
measurements are taken for liftoff, or were at that time.
So there’s a tube then that runs, if you can visualize that,
a metal-sheathed tube. It’s a heavy-duty tube that goes in connection
to the spacecraft for dumping, and they had to have a heater. They
had to build a heater on the dumping valve, because it would freeze.
It’s very cold, and it would freeze if you didn’t have
a—you could keep it liquid so that it wouldn’t crystallize,
as we mentioned before.
That went up to—expanded to the point of the—with not
too much freedom to spare, to the opening in a suit, where you could
insert the penis and urinate. That took a number of tests, which I
was involved with, also, and the design of a suitable thing that would
not leak. When you had the vacuum on it, that was one big question,
is would you get sucked down the tube. Of course, that did not happen.
We tested it ourselves by perforating little holes around the edges,
so that there would be air coming in as well as the urine, and that
you would not trap the organ in a spot where it would cause a lot
At first I had a Crew Systems guy, [William J.] Huffstetler. Bill
Huffstetler and I worked out and tried to make it—we used a
condom, different condoms, and we had it so that you could roll the
condom back over the organ, over the penis, and you had to cut off
one end. So I called them “Catholic condoms.” But we found
that in running the experiment that didn’t work very well, because
everybody’s a different size, and I had just ordered one size.
Were you testing these in the pressure chambers or the KC-135 or just
on the ground?
Just on the ground. We could run these other tests if we needed to.
We just needed to run them on the ground, I mean, right there in the
little mini-labs that we had available to us. We had machinery that
we had another gentleman whose name I don’t remember at all.
He was a pretty good engineer who designed it; you know, brought in
a pump and measured the amount. Put enough vacuum on the pump and
this kind of standard equipment, just to simulate, if you will, what
would happen. Then the three or four of us that were involved—well,
there were probably five of us altogether—would each take our
turn testing the equipment to see that it worked and did not jeopardize
So we ended up with a hard tube with holes in it, a little bit, at
one end, and then the other end—and it was lined with a rubber
dam that could be compressed, if you will, around the penis, and then
you would not back-leak. You had to be careful, because if you got
leakage, then you had a mess on your hands, and you didn’t want
that. On top of that, with Gemini VII we didn’t want to lose
a drop, because we had to take and make aliquots.
So the tube, the micturition tube, was altered at the top with a device
where we added—we had a contractor devise it for us, make it
up. You had to go; you went all the way, as much as—you know,
your bladder empty. It went into a bag, and the bag, you would turn
a detent at the top that actually put in a small amount of tritium,
which is an isotope. The isotope, you would mix it in.
You just shake your bag so that the isotope was distributed, and you
would move the detent one more time, and you would take a small—if
I remember right, they were 75 or 60 to 75 ml [milliliters] little
containers that could be hitched on so that you could take a sample
of the urine from that particular micturition or that particular hour,
and store it where the empty food containers were being stored for
return, with all the dates on it, the hour, and all this stuff. Then
the rest was just put out, just dumped into space, the remaining urine.
The bulk of the urine, in fact, when you think about it, because we
were taking very small quantities, but we were dependent on the dilution
of the tritium to tell us what the volume was. In other words, we
had a sample of urine that we could do analysis on, but we had to
know how much urine there was. Was it 500 ml? Was it 1,000? You know,
this kind of thing; the dilution factor from the tritium is the way
we measured that.
The calcium and nitrogen balance experiment, what was the purpose
This is an interesting story. It goes back before space program. Whedon
and [Ephraim] Shorr—[G.] Donald Whedon was the head of one of
the NIH [National Institutes of Health] laboratories—institutes—and
had published in his earlier day after World War II, “The Effect
of a Half-Body Cast on Bone Loss.” So he had taken an interest,
and he and Larry [Lawrence F.] Dietlein [Chief, Biomedical Research
Branch] and other people got interested in that, the fact that in
weightlessness, microgravity, you would also have a similar thing
where you have no way to put—you know, you have no foot—you
have no bearing, you know; you have no weight on—you’re
in a cast.
They got quite a lot of loss of calcium, of bone, even though you’re
repairing a bone, supposedly. You put them in a cast to repair the
bone, and that does take place, and yet on the other hand, you’re
thinning the bone because you’re losing calcium because of disuse.
But not only calcium but other components of calcium, but calcium
hydroxyapatite being the main mineral that you want where, well, 95
percent of their calcium in their body is sitting in bone, anyway.
So we wanted to see if we would get bone loss and what would happen
over time. Even today between the Russians and the United States with
the length of the missions we’ve had and the Russians longer
than we have, there is loss of bone in astronauts, and the recovery.
There is a period of recovery after, sometimes not perfectly true,
not perfectly back to their preflight value. So that theoretically
if the same astronaut were to fly again two or three times, they might
be at greater risk of getting bone loss, which is small at first.
The bone loss, there were two different studies of bone loss. One
was an X-ray densitometry of the os calcis, which is the bone at your
heel; your heel bone, I guess, would be the best way of describing
the os calcis. That was done by taking standardized X-rays against
a aluminum wedge, which was used as an equivalency for bone density.
That was developed and worked on by Pauline Berry Mack, who had devised
this technology for measuring bone mass differences at Penn [Pennsylvania]
State [University Park, Pennsylvania], where she was a professor in
the late thirties or early forties.
So she was along in age when we were doing this in the sixties, but
someone had discovered her technique and adopted it and had decided
on using it. Larry Dietlein probably made that decision, because I
inherited the experiment from him, and got to know her very well.
She was a wonderful lady and had a number of students working on different
aspects of this problem by doing bed rest studies, with no casts or
So I had started a bed rest study in the Air Force. It made sense
to me that if a person was incapacitated in bed for a period of time,
they would get decompensated by one type or another. We were both
concerned about the heart and the circulatory system and also the
So we let a contract out to a research group in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]
at the Lankenau Hospital, in which the main investigator was Kaare
Rodahl, who came from Norway and had become very famous for his discovery
of vitamin A toxicity in Eskimos in Greenland. The two are not connected
in terms of rationale, but he was well known and had become Director
of Research here.
He won the contract. He won the contract, and we had volunteer students,
Mennonites—of course, the Amish area and Mennonite area of Pennsylvania
is quite substantial. They wanted to help their country without having
to go to war, and this was a way to do that, or be 4-F or whatever.
So four subjects were put to complete bed rest for six weeks, and
their bone density measured before and during and after, but mostly
before and after, because it was hard to do during. You had to take
them out of bed to do that, and that wouldn’t work.
They did tilt tests on them. I don’t know if you’re familiar
with the cardiovascular tilt test, but if you have a decompensated
person whose heart is not functioning well and you put them onto a
tilt table and they’ve been resting horizontally all this time,
and you tilt them, feet down or head down, either way, both ways,
you put a tremendous strain—with the feet down, of course, you
would because the blood goes into the limbs.
We almost lost one of the subjects. His heart stopped and had to be
revived, and so we decided that never again would we need six weeks
to show that we can decompensate the heart. Subsequent experiments
were three weeks.
The bone also changed. The bone of the os calcis was not a big number,
just small numbers, 2 and 3 percent, bone mass differences, but that
was enough to encourage us, and she had seen that in bed rest studies.
Pauline Berry Mack had done bed rest studies also for calcium metabolism
purposes. So she was funded by NASA to do both the bed rest studies
at different levels of calcium intake and different durations of bed
rest, and was using students at Texas Woman’s [University, Denton,
Texas]—well, they were not from Texas Woman’s, but the
technicians were Texas Woman’s individuals. The subjects were
from the other colleges in town, [University of] North Texas [Denton,
Texas], and volunteer and be paid a small token to do this. We actually
published a paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on
the effects of recumbency in spaceflight on bone density, and that
was in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1967, where we
showed some of these changes that took place.
Of course, the whole drive here is to see what’s going to happen
with fourteen days of weightlessness. The experiment was done three
times on Gemini IV for four days, on Gemini V for almost eight days,
and then on Gemini [VII] for fourteen days. Interestingly enough,
the amount of bone loss was less in fourteen days than it was in four
days or eight days, eight days being much more than four days. …
And that was compared to what would happen if you compared them against
the diet. Of course, we only had two subjects. You have the command
pilot and the pilot, and then you have whatever data that you have
from bed rest studies. The changes in density were considerably more
than you’ve got in that amount of time in a bed rest study,
which was a very small amount, but definitely negative. So the losses
were about, if you took an average of those three things, about 12
percent density change—decrease—in taking an average of
four, five, and seven, and that’s preflight, postflight.
One of the things I found very interesting in doing these bed rest
studies and looking at what happened to astronauts is that we also
measured the density of the little finger, phalanx five, and nothing
ever happened on the ground. Where the os calcis would shift and show
a change, the finger would not. But in weightlessness, in microgravity,
the finger does show a change, and that’s probably due to the
fact that you use your hand for so many different things that you
got enough exercise on the ground, but you could compromise it with
zero gravity a little bit more, enough to be able to at least show
a change; not dramatic, but the fact that it would shift to the negative
Of course, the whole area is fascinating, because as we continued
every—in Apollo there were only four medical kind of flights,
and that was 14, 15, 16, and I think 17; I’m not sure, but I
have that. I actually published that myself.
Did you start giving the crews calcium after Gemini IV? Did you start
increasing the calcium that the crews would consume?
We tried. We had no numbers to work with. There was a National Academy
meeting of the Space Science Board, where that was discussed; that
was earlier in the program, about the time we were doing our thing.
They felt that the recommended dietary allowance of 800 milligrams
a day would be a good target. Today NASA believes the number should
be higher, and the number actually in some of the bed rest studies
were higher, went up to 1,200, to see if you could slow the process.
But, in fact, it still is there. It’s present.
So in the latter flights, not Skylab, but in NASA’s Space Station,
some of the astronauts are taking vitamin D, which doesn’t seem
to make a difference, which is rather interesting. Interestingly enough,
I tried to find the actual dosage, and I think it’s an RDA [Recommended
Dietary Allowance] dose which is very small. Maybe they didn’t
give enough. And of course, there are other parameters, calcium metabolism,
their hormonal and others that one can measure.
One of the things that fascinates me about that area is that in the
longest trials, in the studies that have been done in the long-term
Space Station kinds of things, is that there are changes in the blood
chemistry in terms of hematocrits—not so much hematocrits, but
more sophisticated chemistry than that. But the synthesis of red blood
cells, the factors involved in it, ferritin saturation, transferrin,
are decreased. Of course, most of those red blood cells are made in
the bone marrow. So when you start thinking of the bone marrow and
the weightlessness on the bone marrow, it’s being affected.
So the bone is changing; the bone marrow is changing. Which one is
affecting which is hard to say. Nobody knows.
But it is an interesting and important question as far as going to
Mars is concerned. The Russians think they can go to Mars and come
back without a problem. The Americans don’t say anything, because
actually it slows, the process slows. It’s still there, but
you could go quite a ways before you destroy your bones completely.
They’ve been landing their cosmonauts on ground. It’s
a heavier strain, and I don’t know of any broken arms or legs,
so even with their long-term missions. But that would be one of the
things that would happen if you were there too long and your bones
become that brittle
So that should answer your question about why bone metabolism and
why calcium metabolism, because you want to know what’s going
on here. Is [bone] not being made? Is the synthesis stopped? Is the
breakdown gone up? We’re not exactly sure even now which of
these factors is taking place greater than another, because in the
rat, when [one exposes the rat to microgravity for days], bone formation
stops, and so it’s hard to say. Our chemistries have not shown
that to be the only thing going on, at least to date.
Earlier you had mentioned that the astronauts did a little exercise.
Were you having them do exercise as part of those experiments or those
Very good question. One of the medical experiments by itself was an
in-flight exerciser. It was flown on three missions: IV, V, and VII.
What it was was a bungee cord. I think it was a strap at one end and
a handle at the other. Remember, you’re sitting in a very tight
spacecraft. You have no way to go song and dance. All you can do is
put your foot into the strap and do so many pull-ups with the handle
on one leg and then the other leg for so many times a day, so many
times at a time.
For some reason or other, the frequency—I’d have to find
the experiment, because I wasn’t in charge of that; Larry Dietlein
was. I have not seen the data about how often they did it, but it
was a fairly rigorous routine for them. They were all athletically
oriented. They were tip-top shape, so I would guess they probably
did it for thirty minutes four or five times a day.
Now, if you think about that, you’ve got a strap at the bottom
of the foot, and so the data on the os calcis being lower in the fourteen-day
could very well have been done to the exerciser, and yet the exerciser
was used in all three flights. So is there a point at which it works—you
know, begins, like for example, the bone loss was greater and the
bone density was worse in V than it was in VII, but maybe they were
exercising in all three.
Again, the question of exercise. Today we have more exercise going
on. The Russians have been big pushers of exercise compared to us,
although we now do it faithfully, they tell me, and there’s
even some arrangements there one way or another. Some do it more than
others, I guess, for lack of a better way of putting it, because if
they’re trained, and they have more sophisticated equipment.
So that was an example where one experiment might affect another.
There was also on Gemini VII a phonocardiogram trying to listen to
the heart. Because what happens with the blood pressure cuff is that
it’s hard to instrument it to figure out how to send that information
back, whereas a cardiogram, a wave signal is easier to handle. At
least it was with the technology that we had and how compact things
were to begin with.
So that’s a possibility. That’s an answer to your question;
I hope I answered it.
Oh yes. One of the questions I had for you, too; you had mentioned
in our last interview that you had gone out to one of the ships and
were taking perspiration off of Frank Borman.
Oh, both astronauts. That was the Gemini VII, and that was part of
the calcium balance study. In other words, we did bone density—when
they got on board, they had a whole protocol of medical staff who
would do different things and things they were interested in. There
was a procedure at which the bone densities would be done. Obviously,
the suit had to come off, and they were anxious for that to happen.
They had lived in it for fourteen days except for unzipping it to
go to the bathroom or to urinate or whatever; the helmet, and then
the suit itself.
Then I was there with a plastic basin that had been prewashed sixteen
times with distilled water and whatever, and had them stand in it.
When he got down to his what I’ll call a union suit, which I
guess is the old expression for a long lengthy garment, that was taken
off and allowed to—the perspiration and everything, everything
we could think of. Then we poured measured amounts of water through
the hair and the face and the body itself.
So [both men are] standing naked with medical staff all over the place.
Everybody’s taking their piece but me. I was just trying to
get as much sweat off his skin as I could with a facecloth and without
disturbing other things, and using just the amount of [distilled]
water I had allocated to do this. And, of course, freezing a complete
sample for both astronauts so that we could measure how much calcium
balance [changed], which involves not only urine and feces, which
are the biggies, the urine being the biggest indicator; but fecal
material, it carries calcium, depending on the absorption that took
place and the type of diet and a few other things; and then sweat.
We’d already had prior studies, or concomitant studies were
being done by Doris [H.] Calloway at the University of California,
Berkeley [California], with bed rest students. She was measuring—well,
she wasn’t doing as much bed rest as she was trying to measure
how much change there is, how much calcium is excreted by the body.
She even had—well, I don’t know; maybe I shouldn’t
mention that. But I will. They even were allowed to ejaculate, the
subjects were, once a week or whatever it was they were running these
They would then try to simulate as much as possible the nitrogen losses
that were occurring through the skin, through the urine, through the
feces, and monitoring with blood and analysis, and even—they
sat them in a tub, and in the old-fashioned tub you get a ring around
the tub, which is a deposit of skin. All of that was collected. It’s
the most sophisticated study of nitrogen balance techniques that I
know of that ever has been done and ever will be done. She is deceased
now but that is published information in terms of the basic baseline
information on human nitrogen and balance on Earth, at 1-G.
So we were doing everything possible from that point of view from
these different samples. I had them frozen, and all of my urine samples
had to be taken off and frozen, also. I used liquid nitrogen, and
so they were well frozen. They weren’t going anywhere. I had
a corpsman come up to me; I was on his flight deck, the one below
where they keep the helicopters, and I had my Dewar flask loaded,
a very sizeable one, huge, to put all my samples in. He wanted to
know what I was doing, and I said, “Oh, I’m a spacecraft
plumber.” I couldn’t think of anything else to describe
what I was doing. [Laughter]
How long were you on those ships? Were you there before the flights
took off, or were you at KSC [Kennedy Space Center, Florida] before
the astronauts flew and then you got on board the ships after that?
No, we actually did the studies preflight, actually a couple of days
preflight, at the Kennedy, as far as the preflight was concerned with
the astronauts. We had standardized the preflight diet, so the diet
on the ground—one was fresh foods and one thing and another,
but we calculated and had an analysis done of the diet that they were
consuming to make sure what we were feeding preflight. Then of course
they had the in-flight food system for fourteen days. Then they had
postflight, certain foods for a few days; we had them follow through
I left KSC [by air to the carrier] with Dr. Vose, George [P.] Vose,
who was from [a Texas Woman’s] University Lab. … He knew
how to calibrate an X-ray [machine]. So the two of us were the team
on the carrier, so that after the splashdown we each had our roles.
He had to recalibrate the X-rays so that when the time—you know,
when they were doing all these measurements postflight, we would take
our pictures of the os calcis and of the hand.
I would do the collection of all the urine samples and the fecal samples,
which could wait, actually. But the sweat, which took a little bit
of doing, because after fourteen days in the same union suit—“long
johns” is the right word, I guess; but a French Canadian expression,
“union suit,” I think. But anyway, that was all part of
the postflight collection, and [also] the blood tests were taken.
[All analyses were done at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York,
by Dr. Leo Lutwak.]
So then we steamed from the pickup site to Cape Canaveral [Florida],
where they use today for cruise ships, to unload, and different people
went in different directions. You know, most of it went back to Houston.
Does that answer that question?
Yes. I have some different questions for you, not related to the experiments,
unless there’s anything else that you wanted to say about these
couple of experiments that we haven’t touched on.
Well, I think it might be interesting, or not interesting, but valid,
to point out that as the Skylab missions got longer, there were greater
losses of calcium. We didn’t have a density machine at the time,
but the percent change in the bone mineral between each flight duration
was negative, more negative as you stayed there longer.
So we’ve mentioned it already; it’s a real bone, density
of bone, mass is a definite issue. You could build up mass, I suppose,
and do that. The recovery is—the balance comes out fairly decently,
there’s losses. You don’t recover right away. It takes
a day or two for that to come back, and the bone mass had not come
back after forty-five days. Now, I have not seen newer data done by
the same technique.
One of the things that emerged from this whole bone density studies,
bone mass studies, is a portable piece of equipment that’s now
used by some physicians for measuring bone density in people. So I
think it’s a contribution of NASA that these bone density devices,
which are used—we use the radioisotope source as the source
of energy to do that in flight. You could measure mass during a flight,
not of VII but of a Skylab or a long mission, you could do that. But
the whole idea of doing something like that has spun off commercially,
and I don’t think many people know where it came from.
I had not heard that before. I did have one quick question for you
about the experiments that I had thought of. … How did the astronauts
feel about participating in, say, the metabolic study, where urine
had to be gathered, the fecal matter, and then the gathering of the
sweat and perspiration?
Well, they both looked at it as a part—well, the backup crew,
too, [Michael] Collins and [Edward H.] White were backup. They went
through part of it; that’s in Gemini, anyway. My best judge
is from them, because I worked the hardest with them. There were other
studies done, but not till Skylab, which I was not a party to, in
terms of the experiments.
They took it very seriously. I was always impressed that they followed
through as closely as they understood the instructions. They didn’t
want to mess us up.
The thing they worried about the most is that somebody would discover
something about them that would keep them from flying. I’m one
of the guys who took and convinced on one experiment—which will
remain nameless, because that way I won’t be divulging who was
involved—that they might discover some impediment or some thing
that would keep them from being the senior pilot or the command pilot
or whatever, being able to do the mission. You know, with all the
sophisticated equipment we had, they wondered whether we would find
something that would hold them back.
But I convinced them with one experiment that that would not be the
case, and they shouldn’t worry about it, and they trusted me.
I guess, because of other things I was doing with them, they trusted
me. [Laughs] I don’t know.
Oh, sure. Well, that is important. We’ve definitely heard that
from other folks. One of the things that you mentioned today is astronauts
and food choices. Did you do any sort of sensory testing with the
astronauts to determine preferences preflight?
I mentioned that earlier in our conversation, but of the forty-nine
or forty-seven or fifty foods that we had, I urged them all to eat
each one and tell us which ones they preferred. If they had problems
with them, we could modify them. We were able to modify the menu within,
as I explained, with using chicken—chicken, beef, or shrimp—as
equivalents, basically, dietetic equivalents, in terms of composition
So they were given an opportunity to do that, and many of the trials
that were done, the short-duration experiments that were done for
the crew. I don’t know. I can’t think of one exactly,
but let’s say egressing of something or trying to get out of
something, we would sometimes give them samples of food to just give
them the idea of what it would be like while they were waiting or
whatever. We had one astronaut who took a very big interest in it,
so that was important to [Russell L.] Schweickart. He kind of was
interested in all this.
It didn’t change any of the formulations. The juice crystals
got changed to an imitation drink, which we fortified with calcium.
That’s how we standardized our calcium, incidentally. We put
it in the Tang®, because they always emptied the container, because
they had nothing else to drink, anyway, other than pure water. So
that was one way to get it in. But if I had anything that had empty
containers, it was the drink containers.
So the food containers couldn’t be emptied completely, and sometimes
they just would tire of it and throw it out—or not throw it
out, but throw it in the bin. I put Velcro tags on each [meal] packet
so that they could paste it to the wall or hang onto it or whatever,
but also they were different colors. So we went black and white for
Gemini, two-man, and went red, white, and blue for Apollo. So that
was their meal chosen by them, so that if there were differences between
preferences, they would have to eat the right meal. But they traded,
as I said before.
Some people wanted to hurry it up. One person, who passed away recently,
was one of the astronauts who wanted to go to all bite-sized because
he didn’t like the amount of time taken to rehydrate the food
to get their freeze-dried food there, which was more like backpacking
food. As a matter of fact, we did a lot for the industry as far as
that’s concerned, too. When you start thinking about it, a lot
of good technology has spun off to the backpacking industry from the
foods that were made for the space program.
That’s a diversion, but I just thought I’d leave it in
Yes, absolutely. You mentioned adding fortifications to Tang®.
Did the astronauts ever take a vitamin or did you ever inject any
of the other food with additional vitamins and minerals?
Good question. The Chief Medical Officer said no. He wanted no vitamins
and minerals given to the astronauts. They do take some now. So we
were dependent on our experiments. We had a calcium lactate added
to the drink, because that met our need to standardize, but we had
to do some pretty sophisticated calculations—well, analysis—of
each food to know how much vitamin and mineral whatever, and then
back calculate from their waste containers what they actually, in
fact, had consumed. That’s the way we had to do it. There was
no fortification other than that calcium fortification.
Today I think they’re allowed some of that. I’m not sure
of that, but they could always be, as I thought it was for a while.
But with us when we started out, it was a no-no, so it made life a
lot more difficult for us, but we did it. I don’t think it changed
the values very much. I’ve done a lot of fortification work;
in fact, one of my claims since I left NASA is by doing fortification
technology and publishing one of the few books of references on fortification.
Was there any food that you noticed that the astronauts particularly
didn’t enjoy consuming during Gemini?
Well, I wanted to finish the story with the bite-sized foods only.
Oh, sure. Sure.
To keep them from crumbling, we had to be careful. We didn’t
want crumbs floating around the spacecraft, and that had been an issue
of other kinds of cleanliness, other particles floating. As they went
into orbit, Gemini III, they said, “Gee, there’s stuff
floating around in here.” So subsequently to that they would
shake the spacecraft upside down and get little pieces of wire and
just little bitty pieces of things that would stick that would have
got into the spacecraft, even though it was done in a cleanroom, to
get rid of any possible problems that might have had, aspiration or
otherwise, or shorting equipment or whatever.
But anyway, we had a high-melting-point fat coating on these bite-sized
items that were very well liked. They were strawberry squares and
some other fruit squares. What we did, we took cornflakes and mixed
in freeze-dried fruit, compressed it into a very, very tight square,
and then they would just chew them, you know, pop them one at a time,
and then they’d get this nice freeze-dried flavor. They were
very dry, but the coating, they had to have a coating, and we had
used a high-melting-point fat for that so that it would be tight all
But the problem with that is that fat doesn’t melt at room temperature
or even at human temperature very well, in other words, at ninety-seven
degrees, you know, body temperature. So the coating sticks to the
back of your palate and becomes a real pain. So that led to him deciding
that no, he’s not going to have an all bite-sized menu, because
I had told him, “I don’t recommend it, but I’ll
do it. When you’re down there at the Cape, I’ll give you
a couple of days, and you try it out.”
That’s what came out of it, that he didn’t want to change
after that. Secondly, we made a new coating, a protein coating for
all these bite-sized foods so they would not get this high-melting-point
fat coating on the inside of their mouth or on the palate, because
it took forever to get rid of. Couldn’t drink enough water;
you know, it was a high melting point. So it’s things we learned,
too, through experience of their questions.
Was there a food that you found that the astronauts enjoyed eating,
that they would come back from the flight and you found that they
[had consumed all of it]?
Yes, bacon squares.
Yes. We had a product which was bite-sized; it was a bite-sized product
where strips of bacon are cross-linked or crisscrossed by pressure,
forced. You make a wafer, basically, a mini-wafer—not a mini-wafer
but thickness, it’s not too thick. Very chewy, bacon bits and
fat, whatever. It’s fairly lean, but in fact, it was a good
source of vitamin E. In all of the foods that we had, it was one of
the best sources. They loved it, because they loved to chew gum and
they loved to chew this stuff. It makes you think a little bit of
beef jerky, in terms of the chewiness of it, except it was bacon and
Usually I didn’t get any bacon squares back. That was always
consumed. They would just hang onto it or whatever; they’d eat
it in stages, because it was pretty high-calorie. It was very well
One of the things that you mentioned last time is that you were concerned
that no one had really looked at certain issues, one of which was
what happens to the skin and the astronaut when he lives in a space
suit for a couple of weeks. You mentioned a little bit about that
last time. I’m wondering if you can tell us more about that
test and what you learned and what changes you made.
Well, when I left the Air Force, Wright-Patterson [Air Force Base,
Ohio], to go to Houston, and that was assigned these experiments,
to monitor and to set up the food system, I had discovered immediately
that no one had really eaten the foods and the meal pattern for any
number of days. No one had worn a spacesuit for fourteen days, even
though they were going to be in it for fourteen days. And no one had
thought about, you know, you may want to brush your teeth once in
a while. How do you handle it?
We had to have a way to get urine and feces. We already explained
how we got the sweat, so that’s one done. But the urine I’ve
explained, I think, quite adequately. The feces, they had to unzip
the suit and kind of spread the suit a little bit so their cheeks
were exposed. Remember, they’re in weightlessness, and we had
a plastic container, bag, with a stick-um around the edges.
I don’t know if you know what colostomy tape is. It’s
a two-sided tape. You can buy a two-sided tape, masking tape, same
thing, except you wouldn’t use it on human beings. This could
be sterilized, and it’s used in a hospital in the surgery for
sticking a bag onto the abdomen when you do cancer operation or take
out bowel or whatever. So it’s a pretty good stick-um, and you
can line that up and do your thing.
The problem with that is that its contents are weightless as well
as everything else, and that comes up; that floats up and kind of
messes up your skin in the whole area. So you then have to use a whole
bunch of wipes to try to clean it out, and you don’t want to
go again. I mean, you have no room. You can’t turn around. You
can’t get on your knees. You just can slide off the seat a little
bit and your knees are already against the—it’s a really
Your buddies have got to understand what you’re doing and try
to accommodate accordingly in whatever directions you might be able
to help with. So that was the most difficult collection of all the
collections, be it blood or urine or skin or whatever, was this getting
fecal samples and getting—you know, we need it all.
The way we found out on the fourteen days, we give a dye. They eat
a dye on the preflight, the day they take off or just before the preflight—I
mean, during the preflight, not just the day they take off; that doesn’t
fit. But anyway, we used it as a marker so that—and then we
do it at the end—so that we can measure. When the blue dye shows
up is the beginning of the period in weightlessness. Then when it
ends, after the flight is the end of the period of weightlessness,
of being in flight. You understand that?
So there would be several bags involved over that time period. The
first four days they didn’t want it, and they avoided it like
a passion, but finally they had to get some regularity. So there were
a number of bags, depending on which astronaut was aboard. They were
about the same; they’re not dramatically different. But they
had a terrible time with it.
In Apollo, you see, we had room for them to move from the seat to
a potty, and the potty had a vacuum. So you put your liner in the
potty, and you can do your thing, and the air is going by and pulling
this material into the potty, into the liner. So you could seal it,
and it was a lot cleaner. But you had no way to do that in Gemini.
In Skylab you actually had a toilet seat. It was very much closer
to the real thing than anything we’ve done. The astronauts were
all flight qualified, and they knew. In a plane they just have a tube,
and they just let things go through the tube. Some people don’t
like to know that, but I used to tell my students, “You get
rained on once in a while.” [Laughter] Nobody’s ever proved
Were you testing that in KC-135, or just doing that on the ground
as well, like you did with the urine collection?
No, in KC-135. We had to design the bag and see how it would work,
and we made a device that made simulated feces and would try it that
way. But in the KC-135 we had people who were ready to go who were
taken through the parabola and would try to evacuate during the zero-G
period of forty-five to fifty seconds. That was a real undertaking,
but it did demonstrate what the problems were.
The best we could do in terms of capturing the material and not losing
any, not having some go to the wrong place or mess up—none of
the spacecrafts were contaminated, were messed up, so they worked
hard at doing the job right and giving us what we needed. The subsequent
flights, too, for that matter, whether they were using an experiment
or not, they still had to cope with this problem. So that’s
how we handled that part.
Then we got some airmen. I had them ship some suits up to Wright Field,
and I got some airmen to volunteer to live in the suits. We put them
in a chamber that we had at Wright Field, and I had some photographs
of them simulating defecation in the simulator with a suit on, and
feeding them the food. All this food was fed to other people before
the astronauts, you know, the complete profile. That would give us
information on the consistency that we expect at the other end, and
that it not be too hard and not too soft, all kinds of little problems
They didn’t shave, but we did run some experiments on the easiest
way we could come up with for wiping their face, washing their face.
The wipes were basically the thing that was used, like you use today,
toilet wipes. That probably emerged out of the space program, too,
for all I know. Well, it could have, J & J [Johnson & Johnson];
I never thought of that.
Then we said, “Well, you want to brush your teeth, all these
different food particles in different places,” and then we had
a little cup that they could spit into. We had the water gun to simulate
how they would put the water in. We tried brushing with a brush alone,
no dentifrice—a dentifrice brush. We tried a gargle, but that
was difficult to maneuver, to handle in weightlessness; you’d
have stuff all over the place.
So we looked at the dental hygiene. What we did is we took each subject
and took a picture of their mouth, looked if they had cavities, documented
all that, took X-rays. Also took microbiological specimens of their
mouth to see if they were harboring certain kinds of organisms or
not, and then had them eat the food for fourteen days; and take it
all apart again at the end to check them. We had a certain number
of them using this. We didn’t have a lot of subjects. We had
the phases, a couple of different times, but we would try. You didn’t
need to do the fourteen days to get into the teeth.
But what ended up is that the dentifrice was a pain to deal with,
and the toothbrush alone did a fairly good job. It’s surprising
how much a toothbrush by itself, just using their mouth fluids, could
free up and clean out the mouth quite a bit. They were allowed a gum,
Trident—only one kind, noncariogenic gum. Most astronauts are
gum chewers. You may not know that, but they chew gum while they’re
flying their jets. So they liked that. That was their gum supply.
They were all given enough of that, and that also helped with their
So what did I cover now? The rest of the residue all on the skin,
everything, that had to stay there fourteen days. We did culture it.
We cultured these different areas to see whether very serious organisms
like staphylococcus, the staphylococcus microbacterium and these kinds
of things would grow or be a problem.
They were pretty much under control, because when they put the suits
on, the long johns or the union suits have been sterilized. They’ve
been all cleaned up just as can be, they make them. We don’t
handle them as if they’re sterile, but they’re very clean,
and so they pick up every little thing and try to keep them comfy.
You can’t scratch your back, you’ve got to have something
that’s got some resiliency to it that you’re all right.
Anyway, that’s the way that was all pretested. Those reports
are available through the Air Force, or through the Technical Documents
Branch. Those reports were never published in the open public.
I thought of writing a small booklet on—because I got thousands
of letters from children asking how the astronauts go to the bathroom.
I finally wrote a flyer, about two pages, four-page size, showing
the pictures of the equipment, and getting it approved took six months.
I mean, the Baptist culture, I guess. I don’t know what culture
it was, but somebody was afraid it might show something we shouldn’t
show, I guess. But it’s still a question that kids will ask,
you know, and no one has explained it to them, what was done at first
and later on and how it checked out and all these kinds of things.
Still being proper about it.
Well, I think it’s fascinating. It’s amazing to me all
the things that you were working on that people hadn’t even
considered at that point.
You want to remember we were a small group of people that went to
Houston. There were thirteen rental properties, and I arrived there
after most of those were in use. The different divisions were in different
buildings, rental properties, all kinds of rental properties.
I was in an oil refinery, an oil pipeline building. They had some
office space. I had a desk and a telephone, and that was my lab. That
was my workbench to get these things done till the first building
was built at Clear Lake [Texas], and then a couple more. [Crew Systems]
didn’t rate for Building 1, [till the second one, number 4]
was built and we had some space in [there].
Then as they got more and more buildings, we had bigger space and
a little bit of lab space, and things got fancier. But getting the
problems done, it had to be done before all that stuff, all the concrete
had been put into place. So we had our hands full.
That’s why I was working on it. I had done and designed the
experiments for VII, and we were going to try to do something in Apollo,
but Apollo was kind of reserved as an engineering feat. It’s
only after the Moon landing, or after [Apollo] 13, I should say, after
the explosion, the interest of the public.
I’ve always talked about Americans being very fickle. You know,
“Oh, we’ve done that before.” It didn’t matter.
They didn’t realize how much risk we were taking and how many
educated guesses we were taking. It’s just incredible, what
it was all about, and I’ve always been a big believer in NASA,
because you have to keep thinking out of the box. You’ve got
to keep doing it all the time. It doesn’t always happen, but
when you look at some of the marvelous satellites that have been sent
up there, you just say it’s doable.
Let’s stop for just one second. We need to change out the tape.
I wasn’t sure if you’d like to talk about your work on
the Skylab food system, and then any other thoughts you might have
had or any other work that you did that we might have overlooked.
That’s a tall question. I’m trying to think. Some of the
issues that we’ve written about that we didn’t mention,
but have been in the more recent papers that have been published;
the issue of motion sickness, which some astronauts have and some
don’t. It takes them a while to accommodate, and then they’re
able. But that affects their food intake. I did not have a problem
with Borman and Jim [James A.] Lovell. I mean, they were fine, but
other people were not that did subsequent flights.
The other is the fact that you get exposure to ionizing radiation.
Some of the things that are just beginning to be—the astronauts
are treated as if they were radiation workers; in other words, they
get more radiation than we do because of the ozone layer and the fact
they’re in orbit with the Van Allen Belts above them, and they’re
loaded with radiation. That will be one of the barriers we’ll
have to cross when we go to Mars. I don’t say “if,”
I say “when.”
Then as far as food, that brings up the food issue, and what we’ll
do. Rutgers [University, New Brunswick, New Jersey] has been one of
the three universities that’s had a $5 million grant from NASA
to look at over five years some of the issues of growing food in space,
a miniature wheat, making of breads [and pizza].
My theory is that if we could carry all the spices we need—we
can carry a lot for a year mission by carrying vitamins, minerals,
and spices, food additives—then we can handle the macronutrients,
the protein, fat, and carbohydrates, by various techniques, some of
which we can grow and some of which we’d have to process.
But one of the ones that impresses people—it’s not that
we’ve done it, but you know those little dough ovens? Not a
lot of people buy them anymore or use them, but you put dough in this
little bakery machine, and it makes a bread.
Oh, the bread machines.
The bread machine, and it rises and everything. We’ve done that
with material grown—with space [-grown] dwarf wheat and stuff
like that, to try to get a whole grain out of it. We’ve also
made some pizza with all kinds of different [components]; the pizzas
don’t hold together very well if they lack gluten, which is
the elastic protein that holds the pizza together.
Anyway, we’ve been—how do you build that equipment, how
do you make it work? When I was in the Air Force, we’d dabbled
with this idea, and I published a paper then. It was talking about
a Moon base. One of the things we talked about was edible door knobs
and edible mattresses, for protein. You know, it would be a foam that’s
But your biggest problem is water. You can’t make the stuff.
You’ve got to have it available, and you’ve got to have
a way to—you can make it with a fuel cell, which was used in
the later Apollo flights and Skylab and places like that, but I’m
not an engineer, so I can’t talk about whether there are some
efficiencies here that could be used or not, but I think there are.
But it’s that kind of out-of-the-box thinking that is helpful,
I think. It makes you think of how you’d go about doing it.
You were doing studies on motion sickness as early as Gemini and before
I didn’t have much to do with it, itself, but it is a concern,
because it affects a person eating. You know, they just don’t
want to eat, or they’re barfing, and then our fecal containers
were the barf bags, also. So all of that, these are things to think
about. That’s what Bill Huffstetler and his Crew Systems Group
were all about, [designing] these containers that did all kinds of
different things, including the injectables, the drug containers,
the emergency supplies, all kinds of little things like that, barf
Of course, fit them into the spacecraft, and now—in fact, when
we had to put food into the spacecraft, it had to be packed a certain
way, and we even had a set of blueprints, which package goes in which
way. Then they were all [connected] by lanyards by different colors,
the red, white, and blue, or the black and white, so that they could
pull it out one at a time, and it would be a vacuum-packed meal with
all their subcontainers inside, so they’d have to open one and
then open another.
Then we found out over time—John [E.] Vanderveen did some of
that work at the School of Aerospace Medicine—that you could
fly the parabola in the KC-135 or in other jets, and that in weightlessness
you didn’t need to have a squeeze tube. You could actually propel
a pea into your mouth. If you handled it correctly, you could actually
not make a mess.
So some of the containers that came and that were used then for Skylab
were these we made, like the pudding containers. You’ve seen
those; we sell for kids and other people, juice. Well, the pudding
containers are a good example of a pull-top, and then you can eat
right out of it with a spoon. It sticks to the spoon. In fact, there’s
more water underneath a fork than there is on top of it in weightlessness,
if you ever get a chance to go weightless.
Right. Well, I guess there’s a possibility now, if you have
a lot of money.
Yes, that’s true, that’s true. But anyway, you can see
that you can devise—the containers, my juice containers became
accordion containers so that you could accordion the soup or beverage
or whatever through that system. You didn’t have to have a separate
bag for everything. Or you could collapse it; it would also be convenient.
It would be all collapsed and you use less storage space.
So those are the things that sophisticated the Skylab. We already
had pudding mixes, and those went over quite well. They were nominal
puddings. We had some brownies that were pretty good. Some of these
things carried over and were liked. I did work with freeze-dried ice
cream, but I didn’t think it was very—it didn’t
really taste like ice cream when you got all done. It’s just
a novelty that’s still sold once in a while by some people,
but it doesn’t do much for me. It wouldn’t function very
well up there, unless you were able to make a machinery that would
do that by itself.
So some of the things we have done and worked with extruders to extrude
different—well, Cheetos are an extruded product. A lot of dog
foods are extruded products. You can make different consistencies
and all kinds of other things. But you can make a mini-extruder and
make different kinds of shapes and forms. Just add your flavors, and
you’d have something that would be tomato one day and be something
else another day, if you can envision that.
That’s the sort of thing that these multimillion-dollar projects—ours
has been done a couple of years now. I think Cornell [University,
Ithaca, New York] has it now; Purdue [University, West Lafayette,
Indiana] had it one time. It’s a nice contract or grant or whatever
it is to work on, because you’re always trying to find another
way to do something, and also to keep things sanitary and deal with
that problem, which you still don’t want—I mean, that’s
why my standards were so strong.
Even today, I was reading the other day somebody finally decided that
they should measure—oh, I know, on the Chinese food in Newsweek
this week—you know, that they should measure staphylococcus
and streptococcus. All I can say is “I told you so.” It’s
easy to contaminate. They tell you not to eat any of the Chinese shrimp,
and they put out a lot of shrimp worldwide. Anyway, that’s neither
here nor there. It’s just an example of how all this stuff becomes
integrated over time.
I can’t think of anything else off the top of my head.
I just had another question I thought of. When you were working on
the initial Skylab food system, were you thinking about freezing food
at that point? I know they ended up actually using frozen food.
We used frozen food before that time.
Oh, you did. Oh, okay.
Yes, in Apollo. That was tried in Apollo. In fact, if you see the
movie Apollo 13, Jim Lovell and whoever’s playing him is knocking
a hot dog that’s frozen, showing how hard it is, and he can’t
even eat the thing, it was so hard. But there were breads, irradiated
breads, that are still around.
Helen [W.] Lane, who runs your program down there, can show you all
that stuff. She’s got samples of all kinds of things, I’m
sure. She just published a recent paper in Nutrition Today, which
is quite good, about long-range missions; some of the summary of the
things we’ve talked about, some of the new packaging. You may
want to take a look at that. She has a menu, a three-day menu—a
six-day menu. It talks about the Shuttle and the foods going out.
I’ll definitely take a look. Actually, I’m working with
Helen right now on a project, so I’ll have to mention that to
All right. Yes, give her my regards.
Absolutely. Did you both work together?
No, she came long after I did, maybe ten years. Malcolm [C.] Smith,
who I had left behind, and Paul [C.] Rambaut that I left behind, one
took the experiments. Paul Rambaut took the experiments. I tried to
get him earlier, but he wasn’t an American citizen, and I had
to get his citizenship straightened out. And Malcolm Smith, who you
told me he was dead, was an Air Force [Veterinary] officer with a
master’s degree from Purdue in food technology who handled the
food part for quite a while.
Then they [hired, contracted, for an in-house research and development
lab]. See, I didn’t believe in contractors for this. I thought
the [US] Army [Natick Labs] was doing a good job and we didn’t
need to have an extra government laboratory, that we already had one,
and we could use it. But that’s my own personal viewpoint in
terms of the efficiencies of one type or another. …
I certainly appreciate the time that you’ve taken to explain
all of this, because this is something that as part of the project
we haven’t documented. So I think it’s great. It really
fills out the history that we don’t have.
to JSC Oral History Website