John Paul Stapp

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

With the Shuttle program nearly over, I decided to go back and look at the beginning of the space program. In particular, I wanted to look at the old manned rocket sled experiments they ran prior to manned space flight.

To my surprise I found out that the rocket sleds were piloted by one man --  John Paul Stapp. The rocket sleds were part of a program that was actually studying rapid deceleration, not the G-forces of a rocket lift-off. They were simulating jet crashes to figure out safety measures they could implement. 

They started out swinging Stapp into stops while he sat in a harness, and only as the their research progressed did they move on to rocket sleds. By the end, the highest G-force Stapp experienced was a little over 46 gs. Needless to say, Stapp suffered numerous injuries during the program, including bruises, broken bones, burst blood vessels and a detached retina. He was to have lingering problems with his eyesight throughout his life. 

As if that isn't enough for one man, he also credited with finalizing and popularizing Murphy's Law.


Knucklehead said...

Rocket sledding doesn't seem a great career choice for someone so closely associated with Murphy's law.

ambisinistral said...

Yea, that's a head-scratcher. However, being a rocket propelled human crash test dummy seems like a bad career choice no matter how you cut the cake.

Knucklehead said...

Good point! You can imagine how a guy might start out in such work - not quite fathoming the implications and all. But staying with it seems to be a bit ill-considered.

Anonymous said...

That's not all he did...and you have to remember this was in the 50's.

to this day his work is still saving lives.