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Paul Coates -- Confidential File, January 29, 1959

January 29, 2009 |  6:30 pm


Here's Volunteer for Outer Space

Paul_coates NEW YORK, Jan. 28-- T. Keith Glennan, U.S. space chief, announced last night that the selection of America's first human space traveler is under way.

According to Glennan, the new Federal Space Agency has picked 110 rugged young Americans as candidates for the first manned satellite to orbit the earth.

The man finally selected will have to meet the following qualifications: He must be a graduate of an Air Force or Navy test-pilot training school with at least 1,500 flying hours. He must have a university degree in engineering. He must be in superb physical condition, with the physical and psychological attributes suited for space flight as determined byaero-medical scientists. And he must be younger than 40, no taller than 5 ft. 11 in.

* *

1959_0129_house I'd like to lay it right on the line to T. Keith Glennan. Why hasn't he considered me for this assignment?

It's understandable that it might never have occurred to him I'd like to go. But it wouldn't kill him to ask. I mean, I'm not going to bite his head off.

The fact is that under certain, reasonable conditions I am quite willing to be the first human who will soar into space.

My qualification are, I think, impressive.

Admittedly, I don't have a university degree in engineering, and I'm not a graduate of an Air Force training school with at least 1,500 flying hours.

But we can skip that nonsense. All we have to do is send me up and guide me back again by radar.

1959_0129_mirror_red_streak Physically, I'm not the greatest specimen you'll ever meet. But I'm not the worst, I've got a touch of bursitis in my left shoulder, I have an allergy that makes me break out when I drink hot chocolate. I'm missing a few molars. And my adenoids act up in damp weather.

My medical case history is blemished only by the fact that I had German measles right in the middle of World War II.

The important thing, however, is that psychologically I've got it all over these 110 rugged young Americans our space agency is considering.

We must assume that every blessed one of them is a normal, well-adjusted youngster. And that's the rub.

It doesn't take a normal, well-adjusted person to volunteer for a trip into space. It takes a nut.

1959_0129_murder_ro Space, if you'll permit me an observation, is a lonely place. The man who goes out there will need the unique emotional talent of being able to enjoy his own company. Putting it bluntly, he'll have to be a guy who talks to himself.

And I, Mr. Glennan, am that guy.

It seems to me that I'm the obvious man for the trip into the silence of space. My requirements are quite simple.

In the first place, I must insist on a guarantee of adequate publicity. Let's be quite frank with each other. I'm a businessman. I'm not doing this thing for laughs. If I'm going into orbit, I'd like my public to know about it.

Therefore, I want them to hire a gasser of a press agent like Russell Birdwell or Arthur Wenzel who can get me a little coverage in the papers.

Secondly, I want a guarantee that I will retain merchandising rights on any space product ideas that might be promoted when I come home.

And thirdly, I want a guarantee that I will come home.