The United States first sent humans into space during six flights of Project Mercury from May 1961 to May 1963. These flights were brief, with durations ranging from about 15 min to just over 34 h. A primary purpose of the project was to determine if humans could perform meaningful tasks while in space. This was supported by a series of biomedical measurements on each astronaut before, during (when feasible), and after flight to document the effects of exposure to the spaceflight environment. While almost all of the data presented here have been published in technical reports, this is the first integrated summary of the main results. One unexpected finding emerges: the major physiological changes associated with these short-term spaceflights are correlated more strongly with time spent by the astronaut in a spacesuit than with time spent in space per se. Thus, exposure to the direct stressors of short-duration (up to 34 h) spaceflight was not the dominant factor influencing human health and performance. This is relevant to current spaceflight programs and especially to upcoming commercial flights in which time spent in space (as on a suborbital flight) will be minor compared to the time spent in associated preparation, ascent, and return.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
- Materials Science (miscellaneous)