A Fire to be Lighted: The Training of American Astronauts From 1959 to the Present
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This study examines the training of American astronauts from the selection of the original Mercury astronauts in 1959 to the present, as crews of six work aboard the International Space Station. It makes the primary argument that through all of those years, the training sequence has successfully adapted to the challenges of preparing astronauts for flight far more than it has failed. It will examine in more detail than any previous publication how training devices for the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Space Shuttle, and International Space Station programs helped astronauts to make this statement true. This study will also make the argument that the successful training of astronauts helped prove the value of sending them into space. Sessions at a variety of locales, from electronic flight simulators, to neutral buoyancy pools, to virtual reality laboratories have given astronauts the mental and physical flexibility in space missions that only they possess. In other words, they are not automatons, but rather people who can develop their skills through training. This study will demonstrate that when their missions began, those skills contributed to spectacular successes in space. Astronauts have returned a bevy of scientific data from their scientific experiments in Earth orbit and from their walks on the Moon during Apollo thanks to their trained eyes and minds. They have also serviced the Hubble Space Telescope and constructed an International Space Station that is longer than a football field thanks to their training. As the 21st century continues, astronauts will journey on bolder missions to near Earth asteroids, back to the Moon, and onto Mars. The instructors who train them for those missions, whether belonging to a government or a company, will benefit from reading this study because they will gain a sense of what training methods have worked historically and understand the tremendously strong track record of human accomplishments in space given adequate training.
Peterson, Tyler David (2017). A Fire to be Lighted: The Training of American Astronauts From 1959 to the Present. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from