CROSBY - The arc from early exploration at the edge of space in 1957 that began in Crosby is soundly connected to future expeditions to the moon and Mars.
That was part of the message Saturday at the Man High II Space Symposium at Crosby-Ironton High School.
This weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the Air Force's Man High II flight, which used a helium balloon and small pressurized capsule to send a man about 19 miles above the Earth.
Minnesota was chosen for its northern latitude. Crosby was picked because the fragile balloon needed a calm launch, which the 400-foot deep Portsmouth Mine pit offered. The launch site is now submerged beneath the waters of a mine pit lake.
Metal artist Jeff Kreitz (left) shook hands with Dr. David Simons Saturday at the Cuyuna Range Historical Museum in Crosby. Kreitz created an interactive replica of the space capsule used in the Man High project. Simons took a turn sitting inside. In 1957, Simons spent more than 43 hours inside the original capsule which was launched beneath a helium balloon from the Portsmouth Mine in Crosby as an early Air Force test to measure the effects of cosmic radiation in an early step toward space travel. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
But the event itself, long forgotten in local lore, ranks among pioneering efforts leading the way to space flights.
Now 84, Dr. David Simons, the Air Force major who spent more than 43 hours in the cramped capsule, returned to Crosby to mark the anniversary. Simons said he was delighted to be treated so royally. Nearby a Sept. 2, 1957 Life magazine cover depicted the 35-year-old Simons in a photograph taken during his work with Man High.
Information gleaned from Man High helped establish what was needed for adequate life support. A primary goal was to understand the effects of cosmic radiation, an effort that continues to this day and one that is integral to plans to reach Mars.
Remembering the flight, Simons said he didn't see much of Crosby as he was already set inside the pressurized capsule in Minneapolis and trucked to the Cuyuna Range. But he did remember an uncomfortably close-up view of a mine pit cliff as the balloon rose. It took about 1 1/2 hours to get to 100,000 feet. Simons said it was quiet and without turbulence at the top and he was excited to be the first person to have that prolonged view. The ground crew tracked him by telescope. Simons could see the curvature of the Earth on the horizon.
People on Saturday filled the auditorium of the Crosby-Ironton High School to attend the Man High II Space Symposium. This weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the Air Force's Man High II flight, which used a helium balloon and small pressurized capsule to send a man about 19 miles above the Earth. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Simons, a doctor and researcher, conducted medical tests and experiments and monitored a battery of instruments. He had the interest of astronomers and meteorologists.
One of his most interesting observations was that stars did not twinkle at that altitude. Instead they produced a steady light in the color that indicated their age - white, blue, orange, yellow and red.
"It was like I could see the stars for the first time in Technicolor," he said.
Man High II
Called Man High, the Air Force pioneering test was designed to determine the effects of space on people, including cosmic radiation and confinement.
Operation Man High involved three flights. The second one in Crosby on Aug. 18, 1957, appropriately dubbed Man High II, was the most successful.
A helium balloon carried a manned 3-by-8-foot aluminum capsule about 19 miles above the Earth - far above the flight path of commercial airliners.
Air Force Maj. David Simons, then 35, spent more than 43 hours in the capsule with 32 of those hours spent above 100,000 feet.
After graduation from college, Dr. David Simons spent 20 years in the United States Air Force conducting pre-NASA animal and human space medical research concerning the cosmic radiation hazard in space flights beyond the earth's magnetic field.
This culminated in the Man High flight. For this pioneering advance in space medicine in 1987, he was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame an honor usually reserved for astronauts.
Simons also pioneered the development of advanced biomedical monitoring instrumentation and computer analysis of flight stress reactions. Meanwhile, he became trained as a fight surgeon and served two years as a flight surgeon from the beginning to the end of the Korean War and retired from the USAF in 1965.
Simons, now 84, retired to Covington, Ga., where he is a volunteer clinical professor of rehabilitation medicine at Emory University and adjunct professor in the Physical Therapy Department of the Georgia State University, where he is stimulating a number of research studies on myofascial pain. He has written more than 100 published articles and co-authored four books on the subject.
He could see things no one had taken the time to record before him. When a thunderstorm rose 70,000 feet, surpassing common wisdom of how high a storm could rise, Simons watched the lighting light up like a cauliflower or brain beneath him. When the balloon got cold and began dropping lower than expected to the tops of the storm clouds, Simons had to drop weight to rise toward safety and survive on emergency power.
But the maneuver meant he had just 12 hours to land with hopes for calmer weather on the decent. If the cold balloon fractured as others had, Simons had a parachute. However, the danger of getting caught in a storm updraft at that cold height made the option less than appealing.
"Fortunately that didn't happen so I lucked out," he said.
Simons was joined at the symposium by Dr. Duane Graveline, a former Apollo flight surgeon, who spoke about the light flashes astronauts experienced and what that meant for their overall health. A researcher on zero gravity deconditioning, Graveline is acting as a consultant on cosmic radiation hazards to humans in such trips as a return to the moon and exploration of Mars.
Dr. Marcelo E. Vazquez also spoke about the biologic effects of cosmic radiation and NASA's plans for the future. Vazquez is a guest scientist at the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, space radiation liaison, medical department, Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Vazquez said Man High's legacy has many important aspects, including the creation of the capsule itself - essentially a space craft with life support. Graveline said Simons led the way in showing researchers that cosmic radiation was a problem. Vazquez said radiation continues to be a major challenge for long-term space flight.
Connecting Man High's contribution to the future of space travel, Vazquez said: "This is the beginning of this tremendous adventure to understand the effect of radiation on humans in space."
Vazquez talked about NASA's next vehicle after the space shuttles are retired and about a plan to return to the moon no later than 2020 and an expedition to Mars by 2030. Vazquez just came from a NASA research camp on the North Pole that mimics the lunar landscape.
On the moon, Vazquez said the plan is for a colony where astronauts could spend up to six months, such as they do on the International Space Station. A Mars mission would take three years, with six months of that in travel to get there.
Returning to the moon is a step toward Mars. And the moon's resources may be critical to future human survival, Vazquez said. Graveline said the moon's helium 3 - described as nonpolluting and with virtually no radioactive by-product - has the potential to be an energy source for Earth's future.
"It's our gas station in the sky," he said.
Vazquez asked the audience if they remembered where they were and what they were doing in 1969 when man landed on the moon. Many answered yes. He said someday that question will be asked with a slight alteration - where were you when they landed on Mars?
As for youth getting involved in math and science with careers in space travel, Vazquez said the most important element is passion for what lies beyond.
"Protect that passion," he said. "It's magic."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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