Secret Astronauts

The next Department of the Army biennial Army Astronaut Candidate Screening Board should be in Jan 2001.

The basic non waiverable requirements for selection as an astronaut are:

  • MUST have a bachelor’s or higher degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics.
  • Pass a NASA Class I space physical (similar to the Army Class II Flight physical).
  • Have distant visual acuity – 20/200 or better uncorrected; correctable to 20/20, for each eye.
  • Hearing loss not to exceed ISO standards.
  • Blood pressure not to exceed 140/90.
  • Be between 58.5 and 76 inches tall. 
This program is open to all Army personnel, Active or Reserve component with no grade restriction or age barriers.

The ALARACT message 002/99, DTG 051724Z Jan 99, provides the information required for individuals to obtain the necessary forms and detailed instructions on how to apply.

Send completed applications

U.S. Total Army Personnel Command
200 Stovall Street
Alexandria, VA 22332-0411

NOTE: We have a copy of this old file in the Archives per request

NASA Detachment at Houston, Texas:
Army Astronauts Lead the Way

Horne, Jeffrey C

The U.S. Army has a proud tradition of contributing to the nation's space program. In 1956, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency was established at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., to develop the Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missile. On January 31, 1958, an Army Jupiter C rocket placed Explorer I, the United States' first satellite, into orbit. Three years later, Army Mercury-Redstone rockets launched Alan Shepard and Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom on suborbital space flights. In 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established, and, two years later, the entire Army Ballistic Missile Agency was transferred to NASA to become the nucleus of the agency's space program. The Army has been on the front line of human space exploration ever since.

Since the beginning of the space shuttle program, all but two of the 12 classes or groups of astronauts have included an Army officer. Yet many soldiers are surprised when they find out that the Army has astronauts. It actually makes sense, however, for a soldier to be an astronaut. The operational experience that soldiers acquire over the years in the Army-organization, teamwork, leadership and being able to manage with limited resources-has a direct application at NASA.

The NASA detachment, which includes seven active duty Army astronauts and an administrative assistant, is located at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. It is part of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC).

The astronauts are Col. Patrick Forrester, the senior Army astronaut and detachment commander, Col. Jeff Williams, Col. Nancy Currie, Lt. Col.(P) Timothy (TJ) Creamer, Lt. Col.(P) Doug Wheelock, Lt. Col. Tim Kopra and Maj. Shane Kimbrough. Lou Moss is the administrative assistant. The detachment helps the Army define its requirements for the space program and enhances the Army's use of space capabilities. Ultimately, these soldiers are Army and SMDC ambassadors to NASA.

The Army has been a key player in NASA's space shuttle program. The first Army astronaut, retired Brig. Gen. Robert Stewart, orbited the earth in February 1984 and became one of the first astronauts to maneuver untethered outside a spacecraft. The Army's success in the shuttle program, however, is just the beginning. The space shuttle and two types of Russian rockets are being used to launch and assemble the more than 100 elements that will make up the completed international space station (ISS), the largest international cooperative space effort in history. Army astronauts are playing a key role in its construction and operation.

Currie flew on the first U.S. space station assembly flight, STS-88, which launched a key module during the construction of the ISS. Using the shuttle's robotic arm, she mated the U.S.-built Unity module with the on-orbit Russian-built Zarya module. Williams and retired Army Col. Jim Voss flew on STS-101, which repaired and replenished the space station. Voss was also a member of the second expedition crew to live and work aboard the ISS. That mission, flown in 2001, lasted for about 167 days.

Retired Army Col. Bill McArthur flew on STS-92 in 2000 and conducted two space walks to continue the assembly process. Forrester flew on STS-105 in August 2001 where he conducted two space walks and operated the robotic arm to install a 15-ton Leonardo multiple-purpose logistics module. He is scheduled to return to the ISS aboard space shuttle Endeavour as part of STS-117 mission to help install two truss segments and a powerful solar array for power generation. McArthur is scheduled to live on-board the ISS for six months as part of the twelfth expedition crew. Williams is scheduled to be the first Army officer to command the ISS as part of the fourteenth expedition crew. It is clear that the Army has been, and will continue to be, instrumental in the construction and manning of the international space station and the exploration of space.

Although flying in space is the highlight of an astronaut's career, little time is actually spent in orbit. In fact, during a 10-year assignment with NASA, an astronaut will probably fly in space only three times. There is much more to being an astronaut than time spent in orbit. An astronaut's ground duties can be broken down into two major categories: training for space flight and serving as a technical expert in some portion of the space shuttle or space station programs.

The technical jobs are numerous and varied, and much like any other Army assignment, the chief of the astronaut office rotates astronauts through a variety of jobs to help broaden their experience.

Training time is coveted and always welcomed when it appears on a usually overbooked schedule. An astronaut receives training designed to maintain proficiency for space flight and usually some specific mission-task training. Examples include training on the remote manipulator system (the robotic arm on the shuttle) or training for space walks, which NASA calls EVAs or extra-vehicular activities. They also train on each of the shuttle and space station systems. Each astronaut maintains flight proficiency in the T-38N jet training aircraft. With the recent cooperative effort to build the ISS, Russian language training has become a must. In addition, astronauts are expected to maintain a high level of physical fitness in preparation for the rigors of space flight, particularly the demands of an EVA.

While Wheelock is awaiting a space flight assignment, he is assigned as a spacecraft communicator (capcom) in the mission control center in Houston. In this capacity, he works with an extensive team of ISS and space shuttle flight controllers to optimize on-orbit operations and crew time and maximize science. The capcom is the mouthpiece for the control center and the primary liaison between the crew and the ground-support teams in Houston, Huntsville and Moscow. He is also preparing to serve as the liaison for the astronaut office in Russia for a year.

Creamer serves as both the hardware integration lead for the astronaut office and the ISS support computer lead. Under that section, he is responsible for the coordinative efforts to ensure that all hardware interfaces are tested and verified and operational issues for modules not yet on orbit are incorporated into the programmatic flows and priorities. He is the architect for the current ISS onboard operational local area network.

Currie, a veteran of four space shuttle missions, assisted the space agency in the development of advanced robotic systems, especially with human-robotic system control and interfaces. One of the projects in which she was involved, Robonaut, is an advanced anthropomorphic robot developed to serve as an astronaut's assistant. This highly dexterous robot is now performing complex tasks that could previously only be carried out directly by humans under the telepresence control in the Dexterous Robotics Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center. Currie is currently the manager of the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance for the space shuttle program, where she provides direction and technical guidance for the rebuilding and restructuring of this critical facet of human spaceflight for its return to flight.

Kopra has two key jobs: the T-38 safety officer for the astronaut office and a crew support astronaut (CSA). The role of a CSA is to assist U.S. astronauts assigned as crew-members for ISS missions. Because of the complexity and duration of ISS missions-currently approximately six months-the current template requires more than two years of training. Between one-third to one-half of the training time is spent in Russia at Star City, the Gregarin Training Center, outside of Moscow. CSAs attend classes with the ISS crewmembers, represent the crew to plan the mission and operations and assist in conducting the mission while the crew is in space.

The newest Army astronaut, selected in 2004, Kimbrough is undergoing the rigorous astronaut candidate training program. This two-year program will qualify him for spaceflight on both the space shuttle and the ISS.

Another commitment for the astronauts is that of public relations. Only a small percentage of requests for their appearances can be honored. Army astronauts are well aware that the opportunity to serve in such a challenging and prestigious assignment is the result of a lot of hard work and commitment by others. As such, they feel obligated to give something back to those who made it all possible. Thus, giving back to the Army is always a top priority. Army astronauts appreciate the support provided by the Army leadership. The night before her first shuttle mission in 1993, Currie received a fax from then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan. He wrote, "Your craft will never be out of sight of an American soldier serving somewhere in the world." That is a fact they never forget.

Space is the ultimate high ground and, as recently demonstrated, the Army's soldier-astronauts are leading the way. Their goal will always be to ensure space technology is there to support our fellow soldiers, the nation and the world in this new millennium.

By Col. Jeffrey C. Horne


Col. Patrick G. Forrester

COL. JEFFREY C. HORNE is the deputy commander for Operations, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. Previously, lie was the Training and Doctrine Command system manager-Ground-based Midcourse Defense. He has had numerous air and missile defense assignments with the 82nd Airborne Division and 32nd Army Air Defense Command. Hc commanded 1st/62nd Air Defense Artillery Battalion, 25th Infantry Division. His office is located in Colorado Springs, Colo. COL. PATRICK G. FORRESTER was selected to be an astronaut in 1996 and currently commands U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command's detachment of Army astronauts in Houston, Texas. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he is a master Army aviator with experience flying more than 50 different aircraft. He has logged over 285 hours in space, including 11 hours, 45 minutes of extra-vehicular activity time. He is assigned to the crew of STS-117.

Copyright Association of the United States Army Dec 2004
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

SOURCE: Business Net BNET


9-1 Man Versus Machine

Introduction  a. The U.S. Army, in conjunction with NASA's Astronaut Program, has been an active participant in the U.S. manned spaceflight program since the beginning of the Shuttle program. (See Chapter 2, Army Space History.) This program has focused on conducting research experiments and gathering scientific data. Army personnel may apply for entry into the NASA astronaut program. Every year the Army has a selection board which considers all qualified applicants, selects a list of candidates and forwards the list to NASA, which in turn makes the final selection of astronaut candidates. The Army has both men and women astronauts, therefore the Military Man In Space program refers to "humans", not just males.

Ultimate High Ground  b. Throughout history, it has been advantageous to be on the high ground above the battlefield. Space has been referred to as the "ultimate high ground." The objective of the Military Man In Space Program and other research programs is to determine which activities in space can be applied to meet terrestrial military requirements and how the Army can take advantage of these capabilities to enhance its operational effectiveness.

Significant Contribution  c. Although the capabilities of unmanned spacecraft are critical, experience has shown that manned spacecraft have also made significant contributions to the United States' space knowledge and capabilities. In many ways, humans are more versatile than machines. Unmanned satellites are machines which can accomplish tasks for which they are designed. They are, however, not well suited for accomplishing additional new tasks. They can gather data or perform a multitude of other tasks, but only when humans have determined that the capability is necessary. If satellite designers are not aware of a particular phenomena or capability, they do not design a satellite to gather data on the phenomena or to accomplish that task.
Humans Adapt  d. Humans can function well in spite of uncertainty, ambiguity, change, unexpected occurrences and incomplete information. They can think, interpret, reason, and adapt. Machines do not perform well under these conditions.

Human Advantages  e. Humans are particularly adept at perceiving patterns, even when not expected. A human is able to selectively observe and vary his focus on ground targets or objects not previously captured on film. Satellite sensors are limited to specific wavebands and lack the ability to capture movement and to provide true color representation. The human eye, on the other hand, is capable of capturing movement and discriminating between thousands of colors and hues. The human eye requires only 4% contrast, while commonly used sensors are in the range of 30%. The analytical capability of humans also enables them to differentiate between small, closely spaced objects. For example, a U.S. Navy oceanographer who was on board one of the shuttle missions noticed that, under certain conditions, relatively straight lines were visible on the ocean surface below. It was discovered that these were wakes of ships. In some cases the wakes were visible several days after the ship had passed through the area. No sensors had been designed to detect this phenomena because no one had thought that wakes would be observable from space for such a long time in the turbulent oceans. On other missions, astronauts have detected geological features that had not been detected by sensors because scientists and engineers had not known about them and, therefore, had not designed sensors to do so.

Modifying Experiments  f. The astronauts often modify experiments to get them to function properly or to acquire additional data not originally included in the experiment plan. In May 1992, on the maiden flight of the shuttle Endeavor, the crew attempted to recover an Intelsat communications satellite that was stranded in low Earth orbit. The capture procedures had been worked out in detail and rehearsed for many months prior to the launch. The first two attempts were unsuccessful. After consultation with NASA and Intelsat engineers on the ground, three astronauts went into the shuttle bay and constructed mounts from parts intended for other experiments. Then they grabbed the satellite with their hands and maneuvered it to a new booster motor stored in the shuttle bay. It is doubtful that a machine would have proven to be so innovative and resourceful.

9-1 Man Versus Machine, cont'd

Military Personnel  g. Additionally, man can interact with the commander on the ground in real time, reporting observations and responding to developing situations. It takes an experienced military person to be able to combine special skills with military knowledge.

Machines  h. Of course, unmanned spacecraft can do things that people cannot do or do not want to do. Machines can travel through areas of intense radiation, they can perform missions that are considered to be high risk, and sensors can see areas of the electromagnetic spectrum that humans cannot even detect. Machines can perform repetitive tasks without getting bored. Computers can calculate more quickly. As with any other job, machines are tools that can make humans more productive.

9-2 Military Missions for Man in Space

Introduction  a. In 1986 the Department of Defense established an official Military Man in Space (MMIS) Program. The Air Force is the DoD Executive Agent and the Space Division, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, Department of the Army is the Army's executive agent. The program was implemented as part of the DoD Space Test Program to evaluate man's ability to enhance military operations from space. DoD holds an annual board to review and prioritize proposed Military Man in Space experiments. Three experiments are discussed below:

Terra View  b. Terra View is a four phased experiment to make observations of ground sites. The first three phases will be conducted on shuttle flights with phase IV leading towards the future space station. The first phase of Terra View determined what Army astronauts, using cameras and binoculars, could observe from space that is of military value. The astronauts observed both CONUS and OCONUS training areas. In the second phase of Terra View, the Army augmented the astronauts with communications equipment to allow them to pass information directly to ground commanders in real time. Army Colonel Jim Adamson participated in this portion of Terra View. Phase three will use Army experts, instead of astronauts, to observe ground activity and communicate tactical information to the ground commander. This phase encompasses two approved Army MMIS experiments, Terra Scout and Terra Geode. Lessons learned from the site observations and direct communications between the Shuttle and ground sites were used to determine the Army's requirements.

Terra Scout  c. The Army Intelligence Center and School developed and is sponsoring Terra Scout. The intent of Terra Scout is to determine what an experienced imagery interpreter can observe of military value from onboard the Space Shuttle. The Shuttle crewmembers used the Spaceborne Direct View Optical System (SPADVOS). The SPADVOS is a developmental device which uses a manual pointing and tracking system with manually controlled zoom lens. This optical system allows the operator to view terrestrial targets with image degradation caused by current systems. On orbit observations will be reported using a UHF SATCOM radio compatible with the Army's PSC-3, UHF radio. The Army selected two Warrant Officers and one Non-Commissioned Officer as primary, backup and alternate payload specialist candidates. Army Astronaut LTC Jim Voss and Payload Specialist CW3 Tom Hennen performed the first phase of Terra Scout during Space Shuttle Mission STS-44 in November 1991.

Terra Geodo  d. The Army Chief of Engineers proposed the use of a military geologist to evaluate terrain conditions for tactical movement in January 1987. Terra Geode is a four phase experiment. Phases I and II results, based on NASA astronauts observations, have helped to refine the experiment design and strengthen justification for an expert observer to fully explore potential applications for military man in space. Phase I was conducted by military astronauts using standard equipment available to NASA under the Earth Observation Program. Phase II observations were conducted by Dr. Kathy Sullivan, a NASA astronaut with a geologic background, during a five day space shuttle mission launched 24 April 1990. She demonstrated the feasibility of terrain analysis from earth orbit and was able to make basic observations of the ground targets, determine soil color, type, ground cover, and other terrain data. She also provided guidance for improving the conduct of the next phase of the experiment. Dr. Sullivan completed Phase II of Terra Geode during another shuttle flight into space in 1992. Phase III will be carried out by an Army geologist on the Shuttle. This will be the demonstration and validation phase that will prove the value of employing the capabilities of a trained expert military observer. Phase IV will propose a space station experiment to evaluate the potential utility for the permanent stationing of military geologist/terrain analysts on the space station. The Army has selected three officers and one warrant officer as primary, backup and alternate Payload Specialists.

9-3 Human Support for Extended Space Flight

Introduction  a. As space technology progresses and more experience is gained, it is likely that men and women will spend longer periods in space. The environment in space is much different than that on Earth. All life support needs must be carried onboard the spacecraft or periodic resupply missions need to be launched to replenish consumables.

Radiation Hazards  b. The intensity of radiation in space is significant. Exposure to radiation has a variety of short term and long term effects on the human body based on the type radiation, the intensity and the length of exposure. It is not presently known what all of those effects are. Radiation generating events on the Sun are unpredictable and occur frequently. Radiation emanating from deep space is also dangerous but it is more constant. Exposure to high energy galactic cosmic rays is not a serious problem in low Earth orbit. Beyond low Earth orbit, however, shielding against radiation can be bulky and massive, thus making the spacecraft heavier to launch. Additional research on the effects of radiation and protective materials for the crewmembers is needed.

Microgravity  c. The microgravity environment in space is responsible for a number of physical effects and changes on the human body. Some of the effects have immediate impact and others have a long term effect.
Motion Sickness  d. Motion sickness is the most noticeable and immediate reaction to weightlessness in a microgravity environment. It affects about 40% of all astronauts and can last up to four days. Eventually, the body adapts and the motion sickness goes away. Some experienced astronauts still experience motion sickness but the duration is usually shorter. Motion sickness has significant impact on crewmembers' ability to perform certain tasks effectively and efficiently. A number of medications are being used to reduce the length and severity of motion sickness.

Body Fluid Changes  e. In a weightless environment, body fluids are distributed around the body more evenly. The result is that the upper body contains more fluid than normal. It is not unusual for astronauts to get puffy eyelids, slightly swollen faces and a feeling of nasal congestion. The body interprets this redistribution as an increase in the amount of blood in the body. It corrects for this by initiating fluid loss, adjusting the number of red blood cells. After about five weeks a new equilibrium is established.
Heart Deconditioning  f. The heart does not have to work as hard in space as it does on Earth. Over a prolonged period the heart will become weaker. While in space this is not a serious problem. Upon reentry to the Earth's gravity an unprepared heart could be severely stressed. Part of the solution is for astronauts to maintain a rigorous exercise schedule and a proper diet.

Muscular Deconditioning  g. Muscles are needed on Earth to counter the force of gravity. In space, muscles can atrophy (weaken) from lack of use. Crew members can use exercise machines on board the spacecraft to help counteract some of the muscle breakdown. Data collected indicates, however, that up to 20% of leg muscle strength and 10% of arm muscle strength are lost, even with exercise. These effects appear to be reversible following short term spaceflight. The ability to recover following a long space flight is not known.
Bone Mineral Loss  h. The mineral content of bones in the body changes in space. Calcium loss occurs progressively throughout a flight. It is possible that bone mineral loss may be a limiting factor to long term space travel.

Psychological Considerations of Extended Space Flight  i. In addition to significant physical problems which must be addressed, there are also significant issues associated with the psychological state of mind of crew members. Crews will be made up of people with different educational levels, skills, vocations, gender and nationality. It can be expected that the interior of the spacecraft will be crowded, as the shuttle is today. This results in a lack of privacy which leads to increased tension and crew stress. Work must be productive and not repetitive so that crewmembers do not become bored. Recreation and relaxation time is also needed. The fact is that more research is needed into the identification of problems associated with long term spaceflight and the development of solutions.


Despite Numbers of Applicants,
Few Civilians Are Selected as Astronauts

Published: August 17, 1987

LEAD: The idea that any qualified American could become an astronaut has given way to the reality that almost no one outside the military services or the space agency has a chance, according to a Congressman and statistics supplied by the space agency. The result, critics say, is an astronaut corps of increasingly narrow experience and outlook.

The idea that any qualified American could become an astronaut has given way to the reality that almost no one outside the military services or the space agency has a chance, according to a Congressman and statistics supplied by the space agency. The result, critics say, is an astronaut corps of increasingly narrow experience and outlook.

Although civilians from outside the government make up the vast majority of applicants, and although the space agency encourages them to apply, very few of them are chosen, and their chances appear to be diminishing, the statistics show.

''Civilian scientists from industry and the universities have been virtually excluded from the astronaut program,'' complained Representative Manuel Lujan, Jr. of New Mexico, who introduced legislation, already adopted by the House, to alter the balance. Mr. Lujan is the ranking Republican on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, which has jurisdiction over the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Risk of Alienating Public

Mr. Lujan is troubled by the trend because NASA may be passing up some of the best people and because a tightly closed selection process may gradually alienate the American public at a time when NASA, trying to get the space program moving again in the wake of the Challenger disaster, desperately needs all the public support it can get. It is also unfair, Mr. Lujan said, to let thousands of hopeful candidates waste years in attempting to qualify without telling them, if such is the case, that an apprenticeship with NASA would best help their chances.

Top space officials say that the predominance of military and space agency employees in the astronaut corps reflects the high competence and experience of those candidates. The military candidates may be particularly well qualified because, before their names are submitted to NASA, they must first survive a competition within the military services.

''We do not predetermine the number of astronaut candidate positions which will be military versus civilian nor NASA versus non-NASA,'' Dr. James C. Fletcher, Administrator of NASA, wrote in a letter to Mr. Lujan in April. ''All qualified applicants are considered equally, and those determined to be the best qualified are chosen.'' Initial Effort Was Broad-Based

When the first selection of astronauts for the shuttle program was made in 1978, there was a conscious effort to find a broad-based group, including promising scientists and engineers from the universities and industry, as well as women and members of minority groups.

That effort produced such highly regarded astronauts as Sally K. Ride, then a research assistant at Stanford University, who went on to play a prominent role in the Presidential investigation of the Challenger accident, and two crew members who died in that accident, Judith A. Resnik, then an electrical engineer at the Xerox Corporation, and Ronald E. McNair, then a physicist at the Hughes Research Laboratories. (S. Christa McAuliffe, the schoolteacher killed in the Challenger explosion, was aboard as a private citizen.) But the four subsequent selections of shuttle astronaut candidates, in 1980, 1984, 1985, and most recently this June, have become markedly narrower. Of the 45 candidates chosen to enter astronaut training since 1984, only two were not employed by the military services or NASA, according to Duane Ross, manager of the astronaut selection office at the Johnson Space Center, in Houston. And one of the two was G. David Low, the son of a former deputy adminstrator of NASA, who was working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which works under contract for NASA.

The only successful candidates with no close ties to NASA or the military was Dr. Mae C. Jemison, a California physician who is black. She was appointed two months ago.

No one contends that the astronauts who have been selected are unworthy, but some critics say the group as a whole is becoming too limited in its outlook. ''My beef is that going into space has become an entitlement for a bunch of people who, although they are intelligent and nice, are very narrow,'' said Alcestis R. Oberg, the author of books on the astronauts and other space topics. ''They're getting a very inbred group of people.''

Space officials say that many of the best candidates seek employment with NASA to gain experience that will improve their chances of becoming astronauts. Moreover, NASA itself tries to recruit the top runners-up in each competition to serve as engineers and scientists for the agency, officials say, so it is no surprise that such individuals do well in the next competition.

But to Mr. Lujan and his staff, it appears that astronauts are chosen by a small group of NASA officials and astronauts at the Johnson Space Center who favor candidates they know or whose backgrounds are familiar over any outsiders, no matter how qualified.

''It's easier to reach into your own midst and get people you might be familiar with,'' said Mr. Lujan. ''It's a natural tendency in any organization.'' 'First to Raise Flag'

One disappointed applicant, Dr. Michael Stanford, a senior staff biophysicist for the BDM Corporation in Albuquerque, N.M., who has entered every shuttle astronaut competition since 1978, complained that he has never been called in for an interview despite qualifications that Mr. Lujan's staff consider superior to some of those who were chosen. ''I'm not alone, I'm just the first to raise the flag,'' said Dr. Stanford, who asked Mr. Lujan to look into the issue. ''There must be hundreds of qualified scientists who are not being considered.''

Dr. Stanford said that ''the people who do the reviews'' of astronaut applications are ''NASA insiders'' and that the candidates who have ''an inside track'' were those who work at various NASA installations, particularly the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

However, Mr. Ross, manager of the selection office, said that, ''All we worry about is taking the best people off the list regardless of where they came from. As far as I know, it's not an issue. The people we selected have all done quite well.''

The choices are essentially made at the Johnson Space Center, where a rating panel first winnows down the applicants to the most highly qualified 400 or 500, and a selection board then makes the final choices, subject to approval by the center director and by NASA headquarters, which is virtually automatic. Both of the key panels are headed by George W.S. Abbey, director of flight crew operations at Johnson. They are composed entirely of astronauts and Johnson Space Center officials, with no representatives of the broader science or space communities, or even from other NASA centers.

The space agency advertises that it will consider ''persons from both the civilian sector and the military services'' to serve as either ''pilot astronauts'' or ''mission specialist astronauts.'' In the last five competitions for shuttle astronauts, for which there have been 2,000 to 8,000 applications, the agency has chosen 43 pilots and 56 mission specialists. Once selected, they are called ''astronaut candidates'' and must undergo a year of training and evaluation before final appointment as astronauts. Test Pilots Have the Edge

The pilots, who function as commanders or pilots of the space shuttle, must have a bachelor's degree in an appropriate scientific or engineering field, plus at least 1,000 hours of pilot time in jet aircraft. Experience as a test pilot is considered ''highly desirable.''

Most of those familiar with the matter agree that the need for flight test experience virtually guarantees that the vast majority of top pilot candidates will come from the ranks of military test pilots. Of the 43 shuttle pilots chosen so far, 40 are military and 3 came from NASA. Although an occasional commercial or industrial pilot is said to have grumbled, Mr. Lujan has not made an issue of the pilot choices.

The chief complaints have involved the mission specialists, who carry out a wide range of activities during a flight, including experiments, handling of payloads and trips outside the space vehicle. They, too, must have a bachelor's degree in the appropriate technical fields, followed by ''at least three years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience'' or an advanced academic degree. Effort to Broaden Selection

In 1978, 13 of the 20 winners came from industry, the universities, or medical institutions. But in the next selection, held in 1980, the tide began to turn. Of 11 mission specialists chosen, eight were from the Johnson Space Center or the military and only three were outsiders. In 1984, there were no real outsiders, unless one counts the son of the former top NASA official or a ''civilian'' scientist who worked for the Army. In 1985, all of those selected were either military officers or NASA employees. And in the latest competition, completed in June, Dr. Jemison was the only successful applicant who did not come from the military or NASA.

In an effort to broaden the selection process, Mr. Lujan introduced an amendment to the NASA authorization bill, approved by the House on June 9, that urged NASA to ''make every effort to fill as many mission specialist astronaut positions from among the qualified candidates from industry, academia, and other government agencies as from those within NASA and the military.'' The legislation also directed NASA to ''submit a plan'' setting forth ''the actions that will be taken to ensure participation of qualified individuals from outside NASA and the military.''

The Senate version of the bill has no similar provision, so it will be up to a conference committee to decide whether the clause remains. ''Even if it doesn't survive, this is not a subject that I will drop,'' said Mr. Lujan. ''When the next selection time comes up, NASA will know that somebody is looking over their shoulder.'' 

SOURCE: New York Times

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