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Randolph Lovelace: The Space Doctor (Part 2)

Posted December 04, 2007 12:01 AM by Steve Melito

In 1906, a young doctor named William R. Lovelace moved from Missouri to New Mexico to treat his tuberculosis and establish a medical practice. Forty years later, he was joined by his nephew, Dr. William Randolph "Randy" Lovelace II, a decorated World War II veteran and inventor of a high-altitude oxygen mask that had saved the lives of Allied pilots. Together, and in partnership with Dr. Edgar T. Lassetter, the three men would build the Lovelace Clinic, a multi-specialty facility that brought the so-called "Mayo model" to the American Southwest.

The Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research

In 1947, Dr. William Randolph "Randy" Lovelace II founded The Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The research arm of the Lovelace Clinic, the Foundation was awarded contracts from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). During the early days of the Cold War, Lovelace specialists studied not only aviation medicine, but also blast injuries and bomb shelters. The success of the Lovelace Foundation also won the backing of Robert O. Anderson, a wealthy petroleum executive who helped support Lovelace's efforts.

NACA's Special Committee on Space Technology

On November 21, 1957, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) established the Special Committee on Space Technology - the forerunner to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). A month earlier, the Soviet Union had alarmed American observers by sending Sputnik 2 and a dog named Laika into orbit. During its deliberations, NACA's Main Committee staffed the Special Committee with 16 of the nation's leading scientists and engineers, including Dr. W. Randolph Lovelace II. Later, when the Special Committee met for the first time, Lovelace was named head of the Working Group on Human Factors and Training.

Lovelace's group studied the biomedical requirements for manned space flight and considered other biological factors for a national space program. In its final report of October 27, 1958, the Working Group addressed 13 broad technical areas, including the effects of acceleration, cosmic radiation, and closed-cycle living. Crew selection and training, flight simulation, and human information-processing and communication were also considered. To establish an "orderly progression of research until man shall be ready for space flight", Lovelace's group recommended research on vital activities at the whole-body, organ, tissue, cellular, molecular, and atomic levels. Its final report also urged the formation of a life-sciences directorate at the newly-formed NASA.

NASA's Special Committee on Life Sciences

Although NASA would not implement this final recommendation for over a year, the space agency named Randy Lovelace chair of a new Special Committee on Life Sciences, retroactive to the agency's birth date of October 1, 1958. During the next several months, the Lovelace Committee advised NASA about plans for the manned space program that became Project Mercury. In 1959, The Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research administered an extensive series of medical tests to potential astronauts. "The seven ultimately selected", the Lovelace Foundation explained in a report, "were chosen because of their exceptional resistance to mental, physical, and psychological stresses, and because of the particular scientific discipline or specialty each presented."

The Woman in Space Program

During the early 1960s, Randy Lovelace also tested candidates for a short-lived, privately-funded Woman in Space Program (The Mercury 13). He was assisted by Jacqueline Cochran, an accomplished pilot and long-time friend who paid for the testing expenses. Although Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard became the second man in space less than a month after Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth, the United States would continue to lag its Cold War rival in one important regard. The Soviet Union's Valentina Tershkova became the first woman in space in 1963, but NASA failed to select women astronaut candidates until the late 1970s.

Director of Space Medicine

On March 20, 1964, Dr. William Randolph Lovelace II became NASA's Director of Space Medicine for the Office of Manned Space Flight. The crowning achievement of a long and distinguished career, Lovelace's new position was relatively short-lived. On December 12, 1965, Randy Lovelace died in a plane crash in Aspen, Colorado when his pilot became disoriented and flew into a blind canyon. Today, the American Astronomical Society honors his memory with the William Randolph Lovelace II Award, in recognition of exceptional contributions to science and technology. The Lovelace crater on the Moon is also named after NASA's space doctor.

Editor's Note: Click here for Part 1 of this biography.

Resources and Additional Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Randolph_Lovelace_II

https://history.nasa.gov/flats.html

https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4003/ch1-2.htm

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/sts1/gagarin_anniversary.html

https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4902/contents.htm

https://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,834890,00.html

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Re: Randolph Lovelace: The Space Doctor (Part 2)

12/04/2007 4:36 PM

While researching this article, I came across an odd bit of information that didn't lend itself to the narrative, but is still quite interesting. Randy Lovelace was also a diplomat of sorts. According to a declassified document from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Lovelace met with Soviet Major-General Alexei Chizov on June 25, 1965. According to the document's abstract, Gen. Chizov complained about America's use of B-52 bombers. This was one of at least two meetings between the men.

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