The Beginnings of Airborne Weightlessness Research.
NAVAL AIR DEVELOPMENT CENTER WARMINSTER PA AIRCRAFT AND CREW SYSTEMS TECHNOLOGY DIRECTORATE
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After World War II an increasing number of aeromedical investigators became interested in the medical problems of Space Flight, particularly its most challenging aspect Weightlessness. Until 1950 their efforts remained limited to theoretical deliberations and predictions. Beginning in the early fifties, however, researchers began actively to experiment with weightlessness aboard aircraft in vertical diving flights and later by flying Keplerian parabolic trajectories. H.J. von Beckh made the first weightlessness experiments in aircraft with humans and test animals water turtles which were published at the 4th International Astronautical Congress in Zurich and in the Journal of Aviation Medicine. Von Beckhs experiments showed that the subjects during weightlessness had by no means a strong fall reflex, as predicted by Haber and Gerathewohl in their theoretical apaper, in which they evoked the Weber-Fechner Law. The disorientation and lack of neuromuscular coordination occurs only in the first seconds of weightlessness. Later, the control of the vision sense makes aiming movement possible. The incidence of motion sickness was moderate in the weightlessness flights with the Fighter aircraft Fiat G55 and the F 94 C, because the subjects were tied down in the seat and avoided head movements. Later, in the flights with the cargo aircraft C 131, the incidence was considerably higher, because the subjects could move freely and were even allowed to make somersaults, In a later paper 1959 von Beckh showed that weightlessness decreases the acceleration tolerance. This was reconfirmed many years later when the astronauts suffered orthostatic hypotension after their return to the earth.
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