Press Release

Award Honoring Space Medicine Advancements Named for Space Pioneer and Former Wyle Executive

By SpaceRef Editor
April 30, 2010
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An award honoring the advancement of medicine in space has been named for the first physician/astronaut, Dr. Joe Kerwin, a former executive at Wyle who flew aboard the 28-day Skylab 2 mission in 1973.

The Joseph P. Kerwin, M.D. Award will be presented to a deserving nominee in May by the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA)at its annual conference in Phoenix.

The recipient will be honored “for advances in the understanding of human physiology during spaceflight and innovation in the practice of space medicine to support optimal human health and performance in space.”

Bob Ellis, group president of Wyle’s Integrated Science and Engineering Group headquartered in Houston, Tex., said that Wyle will sponsor the award. Ellis succeeded Dr. Kerwin, who led the Wyle group from 1998 until his retirement in 2003.

“Dr. Kerwin devoted his entire career to the advancement of aerospace medicine,” said Ellis. “His contributions have significantly influenced both aviation and space medicine. In a career with NASA spanning more than 40 years he participated in and directed advances in medical operations and spaceflight physiology research.

“As the first U.S. pilot/physician to fly in space, he led the way on Skylab for the practice of medicine and medical research on orbit. And as a leader for life sciences at NASA and Wyle, he continued to support the development of medical operations and research by training and guiding teams through the Shuttle and International Space Station programs.”

Dr. Kerwin graduated with a medical degree from Northwestern in 1957 and became a U.S. Navy flight surgeon. He was selected as a scientist-astronaut by NASA in June 1965. He was one of the capsule communicators for the Apollo 13 mission in 1970 and was credited for being a “coach, mentor, doctor, friend and partner to the crew” by Gene Krantz, one of the flight directors on the mission.

Following the Skylab 2 mission, Dr. Kerwin was in charge of the on-orbit branch of the Astronaut Office, where he coordinated astronaut activity involving rendezvous, satellite deployment and retrieval, and other Shuttle payload operations.

From 1984 to 1987, he served as director, Space and Life Sciences, Johnson Space Center. Dr. Kerwin was responsible for direction and coordination of medical support to operational manned spacecraft programs, including health care and maintenance of the astronauts and their families; for direction of life services, supporting research and light experiment project; and for managing JSC earth sciences and scientific efforts in lunar and planetary research.

Dr. Kerwin’s many contributions to space medicine included assisting in the development of the Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue system and development of a cabin prebreathing system that astronauts use for extra-vehicular activity.

He retired as a Navy captain in 1987 and also left NASA at that time to enter industry. He joined Wyle in 1998 and took over the company’s Life Sciences Group, subsequently renamed the Integrated Science and Engineering Group.

AsMA is the largest, most-representative professional organization in the fields of aviation, space, and environmental medicine. It is an umbrella group providing a forum for many different disciplines to come together and share their expertise.

The Association has provided its expertise to a multitude of federal and international agencies on a broad range of issues including aviation and space medical standards, the aging pilot and physiological stresses of flight.

AsMA’s membership includes aerospace medicine specialists, flight nurses, physiologists, psychologists, human factors specialists, and researchers in this field. Most are with industry, civil aviation regulatory agencies, departments of defense and military services, the airlines, space programs, and universities. Approximately 25 per cent of the membership is international. Through the efforts of the AsMA members, safety in flight and man’s overall adaptation to adverse environments have been more nearly achieved.

Wyle is the prime contractor for two premier NASA Johnson Space Center contracts.

Under the Bioastronautics Contract, Wyle provides medical operations, ground and flight research, space flight hardware development and fabrication, science and mission integration for flight, and habitability and environmental factors in support of the Space Shuttle, International Space Station and Human Research programs.

Under the Occupational Medicine and Health contract, Wyle supports occupational, emergency and preventive medicine; flight medicine; occupational health; and human test support. The services will be primarily provided at Johnson; Sonny Carter Training Facility, Ellington Field, White Sands; and facilities in Russia housing NASA and agency contractor personnel.

Wyle is a leading provider of high tech aerospace engineering and information technology services to the federal government on long-term outsourcing contracts. The company also provides test and evaluation of aircraft, weapon systems, networks, and other government assets; and other engineering services to the aerospace, defense, and nuclear power industries.

SpaceRef staff editor.