By Margaret Kaiser
On May 5, 1961, Alan B. Shepard Jr. became the first American to fly into space, riding the Mercury capsule on a 15-minute suborbital mission. Project Mercury was the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) first high-profile program involving human spaceflight.
Recently, the National Library of Medicine received from NASA a wonderful collection of materials. The collection includes scientific and technical reports, bibliographies, indexes, conference proceedings, workshops, and books and pamphlets on space and space flight. Many of these items were acquired for SPACELINE, a cooperative venture of NLM and NASA. Between 1993 and 2005, SPACELINE, a bibliographic database, provided access to the published literature of space flight and ground-based life sciences research. Since 2005, NLM has continued to provide users with access to space life sciences-related information.
Manned space flight brings a variety of safety and health risks for astronauts and this collection has a number of reports and studies on topics such as motion sickness, bone loss, radiation injury, and microgravity. The collection also includes material on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, a 1975 joint project between NASA and the Soviet Union, as well as Skylab, an orbital workshop for astronauts, and Spacelab, a reusable spacecraft which was used on some of the Space Shuttle flights.
One particular item, The Spacesuit Guidebook, produced in 1990, is an fascinating piece about the EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit) including sections on Spacesuit components, Donning the spacesuit, Primary life support system, Manned maneuvering unit, and a brief but detailed section on Spacesuit history explaining over 50 years of research and development that led up to the achievement of the EMU.
Since its creation in 1958, NASA’s scientific and technological accomplishments have not only increased our knowledge of the universe but also led to much medical research and many improvements in life both on earth and in space. Today, NASA continues to fund and conduct cutting-edge research.
As of the date of this post, this recently acquired collection is currently being processed for inclusion in the collections of the Library. For questions about any of these titles, including how to consult them, please contact the History of Medicine Division Reference staff at NLM Customer Support or (301) 402-8878.
Margaret Kaiser is Acquisitions Librarian for the Rare Books and Early Manuscripts Section in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.