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Shuttle-Mir Background - Flight Docs

Since the Mercury Program, medical doctors have been very involved in NASA's human spaceflight efforts. "Flight docs" take part in astronauts' selection and training, in their physical health care and psychological support, and in the monitoring of the environment onboard spacecraft.

During Shuttle-Mir, NASA flight physicians expanded their roles. Besides overseeing the astronauts' health and the life support situation onboard Mir, they traveled to Russia to assist the astronauts during training and served as important communicators and facilitators during their Mir residencies.

In his Oral History, Mir astronaut David Wolf talks about how important the flight docs were. Wolf says, "The flight surgeons take on a new importance in a mission like this. They do more than what would traditionally be considered flight surgeon work. They are your alter ego. They're yourself on the ground, and they know the people you need to talk with and communicate with." According to Wolf, flight surgeons were the Mir astronauts' "gateways," for all sorts of information and communication.

Wolf praises Chris Flynn, his mission's flight surgeon, saying, "This takes a long relationship before the mission. He has to know you and your family, and you have to know him, and he's under a similar stress as you are on these long-duration missions..."

Interestingly, three of the U.S. Mir astronauts are also medical doctors: Thagard, Linenger and Wolf.

The following table gives the "flight docs" during Shuttle-Mir, with links to the physicians' profiles. Several excerpts about flight docs and the medical aspects of Shuttle-Mir are available in the links below the table.
NASA-1 Thagard Increment Michael Barratt & David Ward
NASA-2 Lucid Increment Galen Johnson
NASA-3 Blaha Increment Pat McGinnis
NASA-4 Linenger Increment Tom Marshburn
NASA-5 Foale Increment Terry Taddeo
NASA-6 Wolf Increment Chris Flynn
NASA-7 Thomas Increment Pat McGinnis

A "Medical Support" chapter in the Phase 1 Program Joint Report discusses Shuttle-Mir medical support in depth, beginning on page 193.

Related Links:
Pool on Medical Differences
Pool on Medical Lessons of Shuttle-Mir
Billica on Flight Docs
Barratt on Medical Differences
Lucid on "Family Time"

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