“From Here It’s Possible: West Texas Goes to the Stars” – A New Exhibit at the SWC

Willie McCool portrait

The Southwest Collection has created a new exhibit entitled “From Here It’s Possible: West Texas Goes to the Stars,” featuring items from our many aerospace collections, as well as oral histories conducted with astronauts and NASA employees with West Texas and Texas Tech connections. This blog shares a few examples of featured individuals, but the exhibit displays many more. It will be installed by mid-February, and will be up until mid-June. Make sure to stop by and check it out!

William “Willie” McCool (above) was a graduate of Coronado High School in Lubbock, Texas. From there he attended the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1983. During his naval tenure he earned a master’s in computer science from the University of Maryland, and in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. Commander McCool served as a test pilot for the U.S. Navy, flying over 24 different types of aircraft. He joined NASA in 1996, and was the pilot of the Space Shuttle Columbia on the STS-107 mission.

Ginger K.Portrait BEST

Ginger Kerrick was born in El Paso, Texas, and spent her youth dreaming of a future career in space and athletics. A knee injury early in her college years led her to focus full-time on science education, and she transferred to Texas Tech where she earned her B.S. in 1991 and M.S. in 1993, both in the field of physics. She has now been employed for over two decades with NASA, holding multiple positions, most notably the first non-astronaut capsule communicator in 2001 and flight director in 2005, making her the first Hispanic female to hold that position.

Bernard Harris signed BEST-ADJ

Bernard Harris was an Astronaut, Mission Specialist, and EVA space walker on Space Shuttle Missions STS-55 and STS-63. He received his medical degree from Texas Tech School of Medicine in 1982, then later served on the Board of Regents of Texas Tech University.

Albert SaccoADJ

Albert Sacco was an Astronaut and Payload Specialist on Space Shuttle Mission STS-73. He is currently Dean of the College of Engineering, Texas Tech University.

Rick Husband1portraitBEST

Rick Husband graduated from Texas Tech in 1980 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Soon after, he joined the U.S. Air Force where he flew F-4 Phantoms, served as an instructor pilot and academic instructor at postings in the U.S. and Great Britain, and became an accomplished test pilot, flying over 40 different types of aircraft during his career. In 1994 NASA selected Col. Husband as an astronaut candidate, eventually assigning him the role of pilot on the space shuttle Discovery during its 10-day journey to the International Space Station on the STS-96 mission in 1999. He served as Commander of the space shuttle Columbia on the STS-107 mission.

But y’all – there are so many more West Texans and Texas Tech alumni featured in the exhibit. We encourage you to visit us and learn all about them!

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The Dr. Sherman Vinograd Aerospace Exploration Papers: Part 2!

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Last year, for the anniversary of NASA’s founding (July 29th, 1958, if you’re curious), we wrote a few words about Dr. Sherman Vinograd and his papers here at the Southwest Collection. We love the collection so much that a couple of months ago we also installed an exhibit that will be on display until around January 2015. It details his career and many significant accomplishments. This turned out to be a timely installation, as the good Dr. passed away on September 1, 2014.

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In case you didn’t check out the previous blog (and you should!), Dr. Sherman P. Vinograd served as NASA’s Director of Medical Science and Technology from the fall of 1961 until the spring of 1979. In those 18 years he led NASA’s most fruitful medical, engineering, and vehicle development research relating to manned space flight. Among his many accomplishments was the establishment of the In-flight Medical Experiments Program, which evaluated human responses to extended space flight. Its experiments focused on sensory deprivation, which in Dr. Vinograd’s words “inspired” some of his staff to hypothesize that astronauts would hallucinate “little green men” when deprived of all sight, sound, and hearing. Fortunately, no one ever came close to hallucinating, proving the resilience of the human mind and body.

Project apollo diagram

As most folks know, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin of the Apollo 11 mission became the first humans to walk on the moon. The years of medical research, planning, and engineering that led to this triumph began in part with the scientific efforts of Dr. Vinograd and his team. As you can see above, they devised an elaborate but compact Environmental Control System that efficiently regulated and recycled all oxygen, water, and sanitation on board the cramped lunar module. Look closely: they recycled everything. Everything. One way or the other, Apollo 11 made the Dr. “very, very happy,” and he also heaped praise on the “astronauts…and that support crew that they had” who did all the heavy lifting to make it possible. It was, he summarized, “the pinnacle accomplishment of the century.

Book 1 russian and english

Another highlight of Dr. Vinograd’s career revolved around “Star City,” an area in Moscow Oblast, Russia, which since the 1960s is home to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC.) Named for the famed Russian who was the first human to journey into outer space, the GCTC saw years of collaboration between the U.S. and Russian scientists that ultimately resulted in 1975’s Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. That flight was not only the final Apollo and U.S. space mission until the arrival of the space shuttle, but also punctuated the end of the “space race” in which the two superpowers had been locked since 1957. It also resulted in awesome bi-lingual textbooks like the one above, of which we boast a complete set in both Russian and English!

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Finally, one of the Dr.’s most impressive programs was the Integrated Medical and Behavioral Laboratory Measurement System (IMBLMS). Before lengthy space flights could occur, physicians had to determine if blood circulation, breathing, and even the ability to swallow food were affected adversely by zero gravity. The Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab programs all relied heavily on IMBLMS’ experiments to ensure the safety of the astronauts.

To see all of Dr. Vinograd’s good stuff, check out his exhibit if you’re out our way in Lubbock, Texas. Or to see his papers in their entirety, don’t hesitate to contact our trusty Reference Staff! They’d also be happy to provide you with the papers of NASA Commander Rick Husband, leader of the ill-fated space shuttle Columbia mission. Husband, in fact, will be getting his own exhibit at the SWC in Spring 2015, which we encourage you to visit.

The Man who Helped Make NASA: Dr. Sherman P. Vinograd

On July 29, 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law the National Aeronautics and Space Act creating NASA. In the fifty-five years since, NASA has accomplished incredible feats. The Southwest Collection is fortunate to house the papers of Dr. Sherman P. Vinograd, the former Chief of Medical Science and Technology Director of Biomedical Research at NASA from 1961 to 1979.

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Dr. Vinograd and his NASA colleagues convene with their Russian counterparts in 1973 in Star City, Moscow (now the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center).

Entitled the Sherman P. Vinograd Aerospace Exploration Papers, 1957-2010 and undated, the collection encompasses over twenty boxes of correspondence, financial materials, newspapers, photographs, printed materials, and reports, as well as artifacts and books. These items chronicle Dr. Vinograd’s early life, his early career as an M.D., his years as a physician and researcher at NASA, and the other professional organizations and projects in which he was involved both during and after these periods. The finding aid for this collection is available through Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO), as well as through the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library’s website.

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Glass data slides displaying the medical results of NASA’s early manned spaceflight program.

Dr. Vinograd served at NASA from the fall of 1961 until the spring of 1979. During those eighteen years he led the way through that department’s most fruitful medical research and engineering, vehicle development, and manned space flight. Among his many accomplishments was the establishment of the In-flight Medical Experiments Program in preparation for the Apollo missions. This program designed flight crew studies to evaluate human responses to spaceflight. Dr. Vinograd’s team also developed a supportive Research and Development Program that gathered and provided pertinent ground-based data that lead to the creation of NASA’s state-of-the-art medical measurement technology. Prominent among these creations is the Integrated Medical and Behavioral Laboratory Measurement System (IMBLMS). It produced the medical experiments conducted aboard the Gemini, Mercury, Apollo, and Skylab manned space flight programs. Carried aboard virtually all post-Apollo space vehicles by virtue of its rack and module design, the type of equipment used in these experiments was still used years later. Space-based research was not the limit of his work. He also fostered the continuing ground-based medical research program essential to NASA’s successes in ensuing decades, the documents for which can also be found in his papers.

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His greatest achievement was conceptualizing, establishing, and chairing the Space Medicine Advisory Group (SPAMAG), which was charged with defining the earth-based and space-based research and life-support requirements for a manned orbiting research laboratory. This Group designed a carefully planned study utilizing highly qualified, specialized members of the scientific community. They postulated an orbiting laboratory designed according to the needs of future human flight crews. This resulted in the creation of Skylab.

Interested researchers may contact our Reference Department via email or by phone at 806-742-9070.