Space nurse

One nurse, Dee O’Hara, took vitals and monitored astronauts on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions.

John Glenn and Dee O'Hara
NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It is a known fact that appending “space” before anything makes that thing cooler. Toilet < space toilet. Elevator < space elevator. Archaeology < space archaeology. (Although, in counterpoint, consider bar > space bar, and cadet > space cadet.) So when I learned about space nursing I knew that I had to write about it.

Dee O’Hara was the first NASA space nurse. She was responsible for conducting the physicals and taking the vitals for all of the astronauts before and after their flights, and carried that responsibility through the entire United States space programme from the early Mercury flights (that’s her above talking to John Glenn right before he became the first American in space) through the Gemini programme and into the Apollo moon landings.

Apparently O’Hara was more trusted by the astronauts than the space doctors that made up the rest of the space medicine contingent – probably because O’Hara promised not to reveal their health problems unless it was mission-critical. She was also the nurse for the astronauts’ families, which I’m sure helped to build trust.

Space nursing today has its own society, although their website redirects to a Facebook page so I do not know how official it really is.

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