GETTING OFF THE PLANET: Training Astronauts
ISBN 9781894959209

$23.95 Canadian
$18.95 American
£12.95 UK

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Training Astronauts
by Mary Jane Chambers and Dr Randall Chambers

Pub Date – Jan / 2006

Getting off the Planet is the story of how a group of dedicated scientists, working with some of the nation's finest pilots, prepared for space flight by meticulous research and patient, relentless testing. The book provides a piece of space history largely missing until now.
Earlier explorers, whatever the hazards, could count on having Earth's amenities: food, drinking water, breathing air and gravity.
Space explorers had to take their life-support equipment with them. They also had to understand and solve the problems of such a mysterious, dangerous place before anyone had ever visited the space environment.
For the first time ever, Dr. Randall M. Chambers, space pioneer who designed and conducted many of the earliest astronaut research and training programs, takes the reader behind the scenes and describes significant space flight preparations.
Co-author is Mary Jane Chambers, the scientist's wife, who has had a long career as a journalist. When they met as students at Indiana University in 1949, Mary Jane was eyeing a career as a foreign correspondent. Instead, she soon found herself a front row seat at a drama about a different kind of foreign place: outer space.
Mrs. chambers has doggedly insisted that GETTING OFF THE PLANET be enjoyable, interesting reading for space fans in all stages of scientific knowledge. She has banished the scientist's usual props: formulas and footnotes and has instead "translated" science projects into understandable language.
Together, the authors have also recollected some humorous anecdotes which inevitably occurred during research and training projects.
One of the biggest problems was trying to explain to their traditional neighbors why Dr. Chambers spent the night in a tank of water (used to simulate and study weightlessness), or why he competed with a chimpanzee to see who could learn to operate the controls of a spacecraft faster, or why he volunteered to do a lot of high-G centrifuge runs.
Staff photographers took pictures of the ongoing experiments to document the studies. The book is richly illustrated with pictures of astronauts, test pilots, scientists and engineering technologists in experimental projects rarely seen before.

Introduction by Mary Jane Chambers

Anyone who glances at this book may wonder about its authorship.

Since Dr. Chambers is a space pioneer and a world-renowned authority on some aspects of space flight training, why is Mrs. Chambers doing most of the writing?

This is a good question.

The answer can be found in the old saying,“Engineers and scientists tend to tell you more about something than you really want to know!”

A case in point is a biologist-friend of ours who spent his entire life studying the chromosome map of the salivary gland of the fruit fly.  He was completely unaware that the whole fruit fly—much less his gland—was not of great interest to most of us.

Sending a man to the moon, and returning him safely to Earth in July, 1969, was arguably the most significant scientific achievement of the 20th century.

It was accomplished by scientists from at least two dozen disciplines—from anatomy to zoology—from laboratories of government, industry and universities.

The obstacles to such an undertaking are so enormous that they have seldom been listed anywhere.

Most of us rarely—if ever—think about what it would require to get off the planet.  We take gravity, which tightly holds everything to Earth, for granted.  We rarely take time to appreciate the fact that gravity is so powerful that nobody has ever fallen off the Earth.  Or jumped.

Astronauts in science fiction seem to glide into the great beyond effortlessly.  However, the reality is that physical forces such as gravitational stress, atmospheric pressure, and weightlessness all have to be“conquered” before a safe flight can be made.

Beginning in 1958, there were 10 busy years of research—trial, error, testing and rechecking—by scientists of different disciplines to achieve the moon walk.

Table of Contents


          Chapter 1: From the Beginning
          Chapter 2: Getting Started
          Chapter 3: Some Glimpses into Early Space Research Projects
          Chapter 4: The Biosatellite Pioneers
          Chapter 5: Astronaut Selection and Training—with Stress, Distress, Zeal and Determination
          Chapter 6: Acceleration Forces and Stresses: Coping with Gravity
          Chapter 7: Early Mars Experiments
          Chapter 8: Microgravity and Weightless Simulations
          Chapter 9: Atmospheric Pressure Factors
          Chapter 10: More Glimpses into Early Space Research Projects
          Chapter 11: All Dressed Up for Space Exploration
          Chapter 12: So Much for Creature Comforts
          Chapter 13: Into Space with Mercury, Gemini and Apollo
          Chapter 14: Exploring the Moon and Returning to Earth
          Chapter 15: The Shuttle Programs: New Spacecraft, New Missions
          Chapter 16: Preparing for Sky Lab and Other Space Stations
          Chapter 17: Meeting the Public
          Chapter 18: Serendipities Galore!

120 Pages
85 Black & White photos

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