View Full Version : Perspective.

2003-Jul-17, 06:25 AM
I just read a novel which mentioned - in passing - that a number of the early astronauts in later life became highly religious - even to the point of mania. Any truth to this? I seem to recall hearing this elsewhere, so I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt.

Well I have a completely foundationless theory for this, based on no evidence, no hard data, no research whatsoever, and fueled by four glasses of wine.

Can you imagine anything greater than escaping the pull of the earth's gravity and actually looking 'down' at the world you've inhabited all your life? It strikes me as the ultimate way of 'putting things in perspective'. I mean, hey! Look how small we are! Holy crap! Look how unbelievably fragile the whole world is. I'm not the most imaginative guy in the world, but even I can imagine the (pardon the phrase) earth-shattering shock this would have on a person's psychology.

Anyway, to the best of my knowledge the early astronauts were nothing like the astronauts of today. Essentially they were glorified monkeys (no offence intended) doing what they were told. They were extremely competent test pilots - brave, definitely - smart.. well, not really. That wasn't essential for the job. They were picked because they followed orders, not because they were particularly bright.

So, in terms of being able to cope with the experience of viewing the earth from outer space, they were perhaps more impressionable than other brighter, more open-minded individuals who could keep the experience 'in perspective'. Don't get me wrong, viewing the naked earth from orbit would probably blow anyone's minds but it seems to me that the earlier test pilots just weren't mentally equipped for it.

And hence their later-life religious mania.

Sound theory? Utter crap?

2003-Jul-17, 10:44 AM
Alan Shepard: Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy
Gus Grissom: Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University (not a shabby degree)
John Glenn: Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering

The list goes on. All astronauts since the very beginning of the programme have had at least bachelors degrees. What's more, unintelligent people don't cut it at test pilot school.

As for the rest of the theory I think it's pretty on the money. Looking down and seeing no borders between countries, seeing how fragile Earth is with it's tiny atmosphere would change anyone. What's more ... the more intelligent you are the more likely you are to understand and be changed by such an event.

2003-Jul-22, 07:28 PM
The astronauts were definitely smart guys. I'm not sure what effect seeing the Earth from space would have. I think it would definitely make a person more environmentally conscious, that's for sure.

2003-Jul-24, 01:17 AM
AtomicPenguin, you badly need to do some reading! LOL I recommend Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff" and Andrew Chaiken's "Man On The Moon" for starters - both are superb and an invaluable addition to any spaceflight buff's library.

BTW Josh is quite right - you had to have a college degree to become an astronaut in the 60's. In fact, the most famous test pilot of all time, Chuck Yaeger, was unable to become an astronaut for that very reason and yet he had all the experience required. (Whether he actually wanted to be "spam in a can" is another matter :))

As for religion... Buzz Aldrin was a practising Roman Catholic before he went to the Moon... in fact, he asked permission to perform a blessing when he landed. It was an off-mike, private moment and only he and Neil Armstrong knew about it at the time. I think Frank Borman is also Catholic. John Glenn, as far as I'm aware, is a Christian.

I believe Ed Mitchell became very interested in the paranormal (correct me if I'm wrong) and one of my favourites, Charlie Duke, found God a few years after his Apollo mission. In his case, that was due to his personal circumstances at the time rather than his experiences in space and on the Moon.

I'm sure there are some I've missed...


2003-Jul-24, 01:26 AM
"The Right Stuff" is an excellent book! and the movie is also good!

Okay, I'm willing to offer myself up as a test subject. You all raise money for me to go to space (the moon would be better), I'll look down at the earth, gather my thoughts and come back and tell you exactly what effect it had on me. What do you say?
Selfless, I know.

2003-Jul-25, 03:44 AM

I can spare 30 if that will help!


2003-Jul-26, 04:41 AM
Haha - I stand corrected! :-) Thanks for the info, guys.

Somewhere or other I'd gotten it into my head that the early astronauts were really just glorified monkeys. Nice to hear otherwise.

I actually saw parts of 'the right stuff', and it was excellent. [ I think I'll just tacked that on my DVD-to-rent list... ] And I really appreciate your selfless offer to be a test subject, Josh :-)

I'll try and do more reading before my next post ;-) Thanks for being so nice about it Dippy.

2003-Jul-26, 11:22 PM
hehe .. no worries. All in the name of science of course!