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Inside the Space Race:
A Space Surgeon's Diary

Lawrence E. Lamb

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Synergy Books

Published : 2006

Copyright : Lawrence E. Lamb 2006

ISBN-10 : HB 1-933538-39-2
ISBN-13 : HB 978-1-933538-39-6

Publisher's Write-Up

Dr. Lawrence ("Larry") E. Lamb is known to millions who read his daily, nationally syndicated column, as it appeared for 24 years. Earlier, he was a key scientist for the nation's man-in-space program and later professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. He gives the reader an inside look at the events, personalities and clashes among the individuals who led and developed the program that enabled the United States to beat the Soviets and send astronauts to the moon. He developed the medical examinations used to select the astronauts, and for everyone who has gone to the moon.

Through his eyes, you can live through the reaction to the Soviets' sudden surprise - launching Sputnik into space - and how the United States responded to the Soviet threat to national security.

On November 14, 1959, Dr. Lamb met Lyndon B. Johnson, then Senate Majority Leader, when the Senator dedicated the new buildings for the nation's Aerospace Medical Centre in San Antonio, Texas. That was the beginning of the years he attended Lyndon Johnson while he was a Senator, Vice President and as a consultant when he became President. He gives the reader some cameo views of Lyndon Johnson the man, at play on his Texas ranch, escaping the burdens of his office.

Inside the Space Race relates Lyndon Johnson's role as the nation's leader, who enabled the United States to close the missile gap with the Soviets and beat them in a race to land on the moon. You will read that Lyndon Johnson felt that leadership in space was essential to national survival and how he supported aerospace development long before Sputnik. Through his efforts in the Senate, the ground was broken to begin construction of the future Aerospace Medical Centre in May 1957, before Sputnik I was launched into orbit in October 1957.

President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson were close partners in the nation's quest to achieve leadership in space. Kennedy often said sending a man to the moon was the greatest adventure of the 20th century.

President Kennedy followed Dr. Lamb's advice regarding the medical problems of astronaut Deke Slayton, the astronaut who was not cleared to pilot a Mercury flight. President Kennedy gave the dedication address for the new facilities at the Aerospace Medical Centre, on November 21, 1963, the day before he was assassinated. Inside the Space Race recounts the events of that day before Dallas.

When the Soviets reported their cosmonauts deteriorated so badly during space flight that man might not be able to spend more than a few days in space, it cast a spell over the United States plan to send a man to the moon. Dr. Lamb's team had studied the effects of men at bed rest and helped to dispel that crisis. The United States' moon mission continued on. The reader will also learn why John Glenn's orbital flight was nearly cancelled because of what happened to Enos, the chimpanzee that was orbited in a Mercury capsule to check out the effects of space flight before Glenn was cleared to fly.

Inside the Space Race points out how essential satellites are in our every day life and to national security. The account comments about the future of space flight, the prospects of a lunar base and eventually the exploration of other planets.

Dr. Lamb has written many books, and was a consultant to the President's Council for Physical Fitness and Sports for 30 years. He received the Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the highest award the Department of Defence can give to a civilian, for his contributions to the nation.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Paul Lappen (240607) Rating (9/10)

Review by Paul Lappen
Rating 9/10
This book looks at the early days of the American space program from the point of view of a key scientist, someone who had a voice in deciding who would, or would not, be travelling into space.

In the early 1950s, there was much concern, even paranoia, about Soviet military capabilities. The concern got even worse when Sputnik was launched in 1957. Lamb was an Air Force cardiologist who was given the task of developing the cardiology portion of the physical exam used on participants in the Man in Space program. Starting from scratch (a couple of abandoned buildings at Brooks AFB in Texas), Lamb and his group knew that they had to be as sure as possible about a pilot's physical condition. Lamb did not have the final word as to who would be going into space, but his recommendation carried a lot of weight.

When he recommended that Donald "Deke" Slayton, one of the original Mercury astronauts, not be cleared for spaceflight, many important people were not happy. Attempts were made to find cardiologists who would publicly state that Slayton's heart arrythmia should not ground him. Other attempts were made to take the whole cardiology program away from Lamb and his group, and put it under the direct control of NASA or the Pentagon. Lamb strongly objected when he discovered that Slayton was to be the backup astronaut for John Glenn's orbital flight (which almost never happened and which almost ended in disaster), and when Slayton was to be the astronaut for the second orbital flight.

When the emphasis turned to longer flights, Lamb talks about the experiments that were devised to measure the effects of prolonged weightlessness on the human body. Data from Russian flights showed that the human body simply could not take any more than several days of weightlessness. Until methods were found to ease the effects on the body, going to the moon (or anywhere else, for that matter) was not a sure thing.

This is a very interesting inside look at a famous part of American history. It is first-rate, and is recommended for readers of all ages.
Paul Lappen (24th June 2007)

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