As the U.S. space program raises its horizons,new and younger men are needed to perform the difficult tasks that deeper space exploration demands. Last week in Houston the National Aeronautics and Space Administration unveiled its second batch of astronautsnine young spacemen on whose shoulders will ride much of the success of the U.S. race to the moon.
Since they will be national heroes as well as hard-working technicians, it is only fitting that all are handsome, married (average: two children), and with good backgrounds and college educations. They are slightly younger than the first batch (32.5 v. 34.5 for the older group when selected) and for the first time include civilianstwo of them.
Behind their pleasant facades are impressive records of experience and achievement. All were test pilots with an average of 2,800 flying hours each, 1,900 of them in jets. Four are Air Force pilots, three Navy; the two civilians came from NASA and General Electric. They were selected from 253 applicants over a period of many months. Sixty-three lasted through the initial screening, and 32 of those were selected for elaborate mental and physical testing. One was eliminated at this stage as too tall (maximum allowable height: 6 ft.), and 31 went to Houston for the finals.
The new astronauts will begin their training on Oct. 1. The first phase will be catching up with the Mercury program, but they will not be trained as pilots of the Mercury capsule. As potential Gemini and Apollo pilots, who may rendezvous around the moon or even land on it, they must learn esoteric subjectsincluding computer theory and celestial mechanics that have to do with active space navigation. Their capsules will maneuver more or less freely, changing their orbits and trying to join other orbiting objects. The new astronauts will carry along their own propulsion systems and navigation instruments, and will wrestle with the strange and complicated forces that govern the motion of bodies in space. Thus, the brains of the .nine young spacemen will have to contain knowledge and skills that have never before been crammed into a human skull.