12:15 p.m., 16 March 1062




LT. COL. JOHN A. POWERS, Public Affairs Officer, NASA Manned Spacecraft Center. ASTRONAUT DONALD K. SLAYTON. DR. HUGH L. DRYDEN, Deputy Director, NASA. DR. C. H. ROADMAN, Director, Aerospace Medicine, Office of Manned Space Flight, NASA.

2 htl POWERS: We apologize for being some fifteen minutes late. Our colleagues in the radio and television equipment industry are having trouble with their equipment. We regret that we have come up with short notice this morning. I don't think there is any need to introduce the principals who are here on the platform. As you all know, a decision was reached yesterday with regard-to Major Don Slayton's role as pilot of the next manned orbital flight. Since that time there has been a great deal of interest from all members of the news media, and so we are attempting to respond to that interest and give you an opportunity to see that this fellow is not sickened to bed any place, but is live, hale and healthy, and to perhaps answer some of the questions that are on your mind. I think that states it fairly enough, does it not, Dr. Dryden? DRYDEN: I think so.

I might make one or two statements. First, the only decision that has been made is that Deke will not take the There are no decisions made to next mission in the NA-7. continue him for the future until there has been opportunity for further examinations of this little defect that he has. All of us have similar things wrong with our bodies, I think. We want to understand more about the relationship and significance of this to future flights. Deke will continue in the program. He has a very important part to play in the next mission. We hope to get him back to work cawrying on that part of the mission. I thin-. that this perhaps is all the additional statement that is needed at this time. We are ready to iespond to questions. Dr. Roadman, from the Headquarters Office of Manned Space Flight, is here with us. POWERS: Mr. Simmons?

QUESTION: I would like to know the circumstances under which the defect was initially discovered, and why there



was a delay to make a decision until this time in the progtam. DRYDEN: The defect was first discovered in 1959. At that time we had assurance from the medical people that this would not interfere with the mission. Thero has been no But in distinct change in this condition so far as I know. the continuing review by those who have the responsibility for the mission it was decided wiser to make the change and to continue to take a little more time to assess the significance of this condition in relation to the stresses of orbital flight. QUESTION: I wonder if Dr. Roadman could give us the wedical term. What is this condition? What are you talking about when you say he has an erratic heart condition, so we will know what we are talking about? ROADMAN: I presume,Deke, it is all right for me to tell them the diagnosis? The reason I mention that point is from a professional point of view these things are and should be handled in a professional sense. With Deke's permission: paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. This is a diagnosis of

Paroxysmal, in simplest terms, is that it happens at indeterminate times. It is not continuously present, intermittent, are other words we might use to describe it. Atrium: The atrial portion of the heart is one of the upper valve portions of the heart, the other portion being the pumping part, the ventricle. The atrium is more or less of a filling type receptable for blood coming into the heart, going out. The fibrillation might be described in other terms as flutter or that type of increased movement. Another significant thing is the heart in its normal rhythm, so to speak, has an impulse mechanism which acts upon'the atrial portion of the heart and also on the ventricle. When these do not operate, let's say, in normal sequence and input, you will develop an increased beat, if I may use that term, in the atrium. This is atrial fibrillation. QUESTION: Doctor, is this the same as idiopathic?

4 3ht ROADMAN: Idiopathic should be included in these terminologies as described. Idiopathic in the broad sense is used when we say "Cause unknown." QUESTION: As distinguished from atrial fibrilla-, tion that can result from some pre-existing medical condition; is that correct, sir? ROADMAN: That is right. In other words, you can assess a definitive and well-diagnosed cause for this condition. Then you would delete the term idiopathic. QUESTION: fibrillation? What are the causes of non-idiopathic

ROADVAN: You can have a situation such as thyrotoxicosis where you have, say, too much thyroid secretion which can cause this. Again there are marked individual variations. This is what makes medicine sporty, the individual variations in all of us. Febrile diseases, in which high fever and/or specific known diseases have been known to cause this condition in some patients. These are generally the causes. And of course your diseases of arteriosclerosis can produce, in some patients, this type of condition. When you can determine these specific causes for this thing, you obviously associate the particular entity with this type of heart action and you can find no cause for it at all. It is idiopathic. QUESTION: It there was no distinct change in Slayton's condition, why was be first selected and then the 7 assignment changed? He as DRYDHN>/ A reassessment by people up the 1 to the significance of this in relation to the strlAsses of orbital flight. I QUESTION: Was there something as a result of Glenn's flight that you learned? DRYDEN: No.


5 QUESTION: Dr. Roadman, how prevalent is this in the general population? ROADMAN: How what?

QUESTION: How prevalent would this condition be in the general population? ROADMAN: I can't answer that specifically. I would say this is certainly a relatively well-known clinical condition. In other words, it is not a rare or unknown entity. The cardiac arrhythmias -- using the term arrhythmia in terms of different heart beats, different timings of the contractions of the heart -- a well-known clinical entity. POWERS: Mr. Finney?


QUESTION: A three-part question on the method followed in reaching this decision. One, was the Astronaut's personal physician consulted? Two, why was an Air Force board brought in? And third, was the medical opinion unanimous that he should not take this flight? DRYDEN: Deke is an Air Force officer. When this matter was first brought up, quite properly I think the Air Force wished to assume the Jurisdiction as to his medical' condition. I can only repeat from firsthand what I know firsthand. Secretary Zuckert called me first yesterday afternoon and said that a board of civilian consultants had recommended unanimously that he not make this flight at this time. QUESTION: There are two other parts to the question. One was, was Douglas consulted, and three, was the medical opinion unanimous? POWERS: Dr. Douglas was consulted because he was involved in the processing and was familiar with the process. ROADMAN: I would like to highlight that. Dr. Douglas has been in constant touch with Deke, as you know, as well as the other Astronauts, in constant daily association as a flight surgeon to these Astronauts.


6 Dr. Douglas, obviously his professional observation and care is of the first magnitude in this particular problem. DRYDEN: I wish Dr. Douglas were here so he could speak for himself on this matter. He has been with the Astronauts from the beginning. In 1959, when this condition was discovered, he felt and I believe still feels that this is not a condition which necessarily prevents Deke from making orbital flights. QUESTION: DRYDEN: Dr. Douglas? DOUGLAS: He is here, isn't he? Do you want to speak for yourself,

He was qualified to go.

DRYDEN: We are entering, as you can sce, the question of medical opinion about a condition whose significance is not interpreted the same way by everyone. QUESTION: How was it picked up? How was the fibrillbtion picked up, and is there any indication that the stress in training was the cause? SLAYTON: As to the first part, the first time I was aware of it was in our first centrifuge program at Johnsville, which was also the first time I had had EKG leads on in quite some time, other than in physical exams. When the EKG leads were applied it was apparent I had this condi/ tion. QUESTION: This was before --

SLAYTON: This was before I ever got on the wheel, :t was not as a result of before I ever got on the vehicle. being on the wheel. Of course, I have been conscious of it at various times since that point. Up to that point I was not aware of it. QUESTION: Are you aware of it physiologically? Can you feel it, on the onset of this? SLAYTON: Sometimes, yes.


7 yt6 QUESTION: What was the question? POWERS: The question was whether you were physiologically personally aware of it. SLAYTON: To amplify it, it does not affect my performance in any way. I can do everything with it that I can without it, in terms of stress exercise and so forth. QUESTION: How do you feel it?

SLAYTON: Mostly in my pulse. I couldn't tell you whether I had it right now or not unless I took my pulse. QUESTION: How do you detect it?

SLAYTON: The best way I can tell you is by feeling the pulse. It is irregular at the times I do have it. DRYDEN: Let's make it clear, Deke is ready to go, as far as I am concerned. QUESTION: Is this the first time that the Air Force panel has gotten into this? In other words, it is still confusing to us why we went this far and then had a reassessment now which apparently differs from prior Is it a conflict between reassessments if we had them. an Air Force panel thinking he shouldn't, and Dr. Douglas thinking he should or can? This is still confusing. DRYDEN: The question was first raised within the management echelons of NASA as to what is the real significance of this condition in relation to the stresses of orbital flight. You may recall, there are a number of new people within NASA at the present time who are carrying the responsibility for the program. The general feeling was that this condition should be re-evaluated. As I have explained, the Air Force was consulted, and since Deke is an Air Force officer they assumed the responsibility for this examination. QUESTION: flying? POWERS:

Would this affect jet flight?


The question is would it affect other


Is that correct?


ht7 QUESTION: Yes, jet flying.

ROADMAN: I can answer that from a medical standpoint. In Dr. Douglas' opinion, and in mine, and shared by others, again with an opportunity to express opinion, the answer is absolutely not. QUESTION: Is there an active examination or program now to determine the cause of this? And two, does this rule out future flights? Did the Air Force board rule out future flights? DRYDEN: I will answer that. I tried to make it clear at the beginning that this deals only with this particular flight. There will be further examinations and study of this condition.



Deke's QUESTION: John, could you tell us what role will be in MA-7? POWERS: I don't think we are real firm. going to be at CapCom? Are you

can tell SLAYTON: I don't know specifically. I next month, and you what it will be for approximately the up to date as much that is trying to bring Scott Carpenter familiar with, as possible on the capsule, which I am most that I can. help and help him out in any way I can. Anything him on, I will. QUESTION: In getting the capsule ready, Deke? We were further along

That is right. SLAYTON: with that already, of course.

QUESTION: You said, Deke, that this condition performance in has not affected, I think you said, your any way? SLAYTON: This is correct.


QUESTION: What do you mean by performance? and what else? As far as my physical

SLAYTON: This is correct. performance, absolutely no effect.

I would like to ask, if you are going QUESTION: stress of space to re-evaluate this condition under the flight, how do you intend to do this? DRYDEN: This is a medical task that I can't I don't know whether Dr. Roadman can or not.


As a matter of fact, this is a very ROADMAN: with Deke. We, good question. It leads to our discussions way to access to meet his desires, will continue in a major we are very Deke's condition under stress, and specifically and then putting interested in waiting for Deke to fibrillate exist, with Deke in under these stress tests as they now subject him some others that we have been thinking about, to performance tasks while he is fibrillating. the Obviously, we cannot simulate on the ground of the consideraactual space environment. But this is one As we get tions I am sure are in some people's minds.


c2 more experience in more space flights, I Am sure that we will come to many conclusions that it is not nearly as stressful as many people now currently hold to that view. QUESTION: This was part of my view. This, in other words, has not been observed under any other tests or training during the training program. It has not occurred? ROADMAN: That is correct.

SLAYTON: It is not a function of the stress. I want to make that perfectly clear. No matter what stress I have ever been under, it has had absolutely no bearing on it. QUESTION: It could have occurred. If it occurred normally, it might have occurred, but it hasn't, SLAYTON: If it had; it would have made no difference.

ROADMAN: In other words, we are not able to precipitate this under stress. DRYDEN: May I say as a layman I think all of you know from the results from the various space flights that we have not been able to devise a ground test which produces exactly the same stress. In other words, the heart rates in actual flight have always been somewhat higher than those in simulator flights or in centrifuge runs. QUESTION: Dr. Dryden, you indicated that the decision was made on a re-evaluation of current data on space flight but that it did not come from Col. Glenn's flight. Where did this re-evaluation come from? DRYDEN: I think it was the facing up to the responsibilities of the people within the organization as to the consequences of a possible failure during the flight; with such a condition known, and its feeling that we do not at this moment know enough about the significance of the condition to proceed with confidence. POWERS: Mr. von Friend?

QUESTION: I have two questions, the first for Dr. Roadman. We know that in 1960, I think it was, Gordon Cooper had some gallstone trouble and now we know of Deke's trouble. Do any of the other astronauts have any minor


c3 defects of any sort which might possibly interfere with their flight at sone later time that you know of now? ROADMAN: No.

QUESTION: A question for Deke. Were you aware during the past few weeks that this thing might interfere with your flight? Or was this a sudden announcement? SLAYTON: I was not aware of it. This is correct.

QUESTION: Was there an evaluation made just prior to Deke's being named as the next orbital pilot? DRYDEN: No. Deke was chosen for this tn good faith on the basis of the assurances that we had felt that Deke this was not a condition that would lead to difficulty. was told as soon as the question was raised as to possible additional examination and study of this question. It has all been very recent, however. POWERS: Mr. Simmons?

QUESTION: Dr. Dryden, you say that Deke was chosen for this on the basis of assurances that this would not lead to difficulty. What were these assurances? Who made them? Was there a board, an Air Force board in 1959? DRYDEN: No. I am talking about the feeling that Dr. Douglas has expressed and still expresses today. No question had been raised from the point of view of the operating people. Doke was the one most ready and highly qualified to make this flight. As I have tried to explain without going into every Jim and Joe who contributed to this, there was a consideration by the people who are responsible for the success of the mission as to the possible significance of this in relation to the stresses of orbital It was felt that possibly some additional medical flight. examination and consultation should be held. It has all gone very quickly, and, as a matter of fact, much more quickly than I had expected that it would be done. ROADNAN: I might add to your comment, to be as helpful as I can, and I now am expressing my opinion, I think you should all understand, again I repeat, individual variations makes medicine quite sporty, and then again there are many factors in which individual medical judgment and/or opinion are evaluated.

12 c4 Those of us in Aerospace Medicine have, I think, a unique position in evaluating as best we can in our judgment medical conditions in which you could say this is a clinical medical condition, and by our experience, both in the air and flying and aviation medicine, if I may use that term, are in a position to look at this in sort of an industrial sense in terms of the total environment of the total problem. By contrast -- and you must understand that in the average or normal clinical practice of medicine -oftentimes there are rather wide divergent opinions. A person who sees patients in the normal clinical practice is confronted with a different set of circumstances oftentimes by contrast to those of us who are dealing with the In trying to evaluate a pilot population and in flying. clinical condition, you have to arrive and oftentimes arrive at good, honest differences of opinion as to the relative risks attached to this, assessing the medical point of view and looking at what you are trying to accomplish. DRYDEN: This is a lot of words to say that doctors in clinics usually are looking at sick people. Aeromedical people are looking at those who are more nearly healthy. ROADMAN: That is correct.

QUESTION: How long do these occur; how long do they last; and when was the most recent one tha.t you had? SLAYTON: I normally don't pay that much attenI did at the time I first became aware of it. tion to it. QUESTION: Was that in 1959?

I kept SLAYTON: Yes, I think it was 1959. fairly close track of it for a while, and when it became apparent it wasn't making any difference whether I had it or not, as far as what I did, I stopped paying attention to it. In general, as close as I can remember from the numbers that I have, an average of once every two weeks, approximately, I may have it for a couple of days. QUESTION: And the most recent one, sir?

13 c5 SLAYTON: approximately. QUESTION: SLAYTON:

I would say maybe about two weeks ago, Do you still have it? Oh, negative.
If they last for two weeks -

Negative. They last someSLAYTON: Negative. I can get .rfd of them by going times a day or two days. out and running two or three miles. QUESTION: Dr. Roadman, is this related to what is commonly known as athletic heart? ROADMAN: QUESTION: ROADMAN: No. Not at all? No.

QUESTION: Since it was first discovered, obviously you have been in the centrifuge. Have you been flying jets and breaking sound barriers over the Cape and so on? SLAYTON: No. No, never. I have been flying continually. I have been doing everything else that anybody else in the program has been doing. QUESTION: Is there any Air Force regulation which would ground you? SLAYTON: QUESTION: SLAYTON: Not that I am aware of. Could you tell us how many Ge did
peak Gs?

you take on the centrifuge --

Somewhere around 14 or 15.

QUESTION: Dr. Dryden, if the designated backup pilot does not replace the prime pilot in such an instance, why do we have a designated back-up pilot? If you DRYDEN: This was the back-up pilot. recall, Carpenter was the back-up to Glenn. We felt that


in this instance it was quicker and easier to make use of that back-up experience rather than the much more limited experience that Schirra has had to date. QUESTION: Dr. Dryden, you mentioned something about new people having come into the space program. DRYDEN: Since 1959, when this condition was first observed. As far as I know, it has not been brought to the attention of Headquarters people until very recently since that date. POWERS: We have to break at 12:45.

Mr. Simmo~%




15 QUESTION: I would like to ask Deke or Dr. Dryden about future possibilities. Would Deke get a chance to go on later Mercury flights, or will he wait until the two-man Gemini program? DRYDEN: I think what I have said is that all that has been decided to date is that he will not fly on the MA-7 mission. Now perhaps two months from now, when we get through these additional tests and so on; we can tell you what the future would be. POWERS: Mr. Finney?

QUESTION: Dr. Dryden, would I take it from your comments that the initiative to re-examine this physical situation came from NASA headquarters? DRYDEN: That is correct.

QUESTION: You say, Dr. Dryden, it was not brought to the attention of headquarters people since that date until just recently? (DRYDEN' That is correct. It became known to the people in charge of the program at this time rather recently. QUESTION: Major Slayton, we kind of dissected you. Can you tell us how you felt about this when you were told, where you were when.you were told, and your impressions and reactions? QUESTION: And when you were told?

SLAYTON: As Dr. Dryden said, when this thing came up for re-evaluation two or three days ago, I was told I was being re-evaluated. I came up here yesterday to meet the latest board of cardiologists and I was told immediately after they had made their decision. Of course my feelings, I think, are very obvious. I am damned disappointed. TLt's face it. DRYDEN: I think we all share these feelings. It is with great regret that this has happened this way to as fine a fellow as I know. QUESTION: I have a two-part question. At which time during space flight is the pilot usJer the most stress,

16 and two, could this possibly be an asset to the program, that you are able to observe this and find out more than you would if the Astronaut did not have this defect? SLAYTON: That is a very interesting approach. would like to carry that one farther. POWERS: Dr. Roadman, do you recall when the heaviest stresses were? ROADMAN: Would you state that again? I

QUESTION: During any space flight, at what time during the flight is greatest stress put on the heart? Under the G forces or when? While you are under heavy gravitational force or when? ROADMAN: answer. SIAYTON: I think I have the best answer to that one. I think the most stress on the heart is at the press conference after the flight. QUESTION: I asked during the flight. I think that is a rather hard one to

It is awfully difficult to answer purely ROADMAN: medical. I know that John has stated to me, in reviewing his flight -- and I think he stated to the rest of these people -- that the Intervening days after the flight were much more stressful than his experience in flight. QUESTION: medical records? You mean you couldn't get it from the

ROADVAN: Yes, you get an indication as far as pulse rates are concerned, but it is awfully difficult to evaluate, for example, whether acceleration on boost or re-entry is really more stressful. POWERS: of stress? ROADMAN: No. The pulse rate is not necessarily a measure

DRYDEN: We gather, of course, from the centrifuge sixulator test that th3re is a difference between that condition

3h4 and flight condition. Many people think it is related to emotion. You could think of various emotional circumstances, I think, when the heart rate beats faster than normal. QUESTION: Two questions. First, for Major Slayton.

Have you had any kind of a formal waiver from the Air Force to continue your jet flying with the knowledge of this condition? SLAYTON: I am under the control of NASA at the present time and have been for the past three years fo; the purposes of the mission. Within this context I have been granted a waiver to fly both aircraft and space vehicles obviously, or I wouldn't have been selected for this particular shot. What action the Air Force has to take, and if any is required, I would have to ask Dr. Roadman to comment on. ROADMAN: I would have no further comment, I am on board with NASA as well. I think the Air Force would have to answer that. POWERS: The point here is that he has not been suspended from flying status. I think we ought to make that point clear. QUESTION: The other part of the question is for Dr. Roadman. Is this kind of a minor defect likely to occur with other members of this program as they approach their 40's or past their 40's and the program goes on? ROADMAN: It would be impossible to say precisely. One's opinion would be that it would not. QUESTION: Dr. Roadman, what would be consequential from what we now know of the defect if the Astronaut were traveling around in space, if this were a consideration? In other words, what spells the difference? ROADMAN: There is this possibility: In other words, if you consider fibrillation as an abnormality in rhythm and timing, knowing that the heart in its action, in order to be most efficient has to have a cycling rhythm and a timing or the gearing mechanism must be in normal cycle, in the clinical


18 4bt sense some patients have been evaluated in fibrillation -again I am not referring to Deke -- in some clinical conditions during atrial fibrillation, then the ventricular rate has been influenced and changed. This change in the ventricular rate and cycling, so to speak, of the heart, can in some cases result in reduced efficiency in circulation as far as the pumping action of the heart. POWERS: Thank you very much, gentlemen.


(Thereupon, at 12:48 p.m., the press conference/ / was concluded.)








WO 2-4155
WO 3-695


March 15, 1962

CARPENTER REPLACES SLAYTON AS MA-7 PILOT The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said today a heart condition will prevent Astronaut Donald K. Slayton from piloting the Mercury-Atlas 7 spacecraft. Astronaut M. Scott Carpenter, backup pilot to John H. Glenn, Jr. for his recent MA-6 flight, has been selected as prime pilot for the MA-7 mission. Carpenter's backup pilot will be Astronaut Walter M. Schirra. Doctors described Slayton's difficulty as an "erratic heart rate." In medical terms, it is described as idiopathic atrial fibrillation. The condition was detected in November, 1959. At that time it was decided Slayton, an Air Force major on loan to NASA, should continue in the program and the condition should be monitored closely. An Air Force medical board, meeting today to review the case, advised NASA that Slayton should not attempt the MA-7 mission. A board of civilian Cardiologists confirmed the condition. On learning of the board's decision, Slayton said he was extremely disappointed. "To realize that I will not be piloting MA-7 -- well, I'm very disappointed to say the least," Slayton daid. The civilian cardiologists were Dr. Proctor Harvey, professor of cardiology, Georgetown University; Dr. Thomas Mattingly, heart specialist, Washington Hospital Center, and Dr. Eugene Braunwall, a cardiology researcher, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md. Carpenter and Schirra are Navy pilots who, like Slayton and the other astronauts, Joined NASA in April, 1959. Carpenter is a lieutenant commander; Schirra, a commander. -End-


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful