An Apollo-era NASA astronaut who was the primary particular person born in Australia to coach for a spaceflight, Philip Chapman has died at the age 86, having by no means made it into orbit.
Chapman died on Monday (April 5) in Scottsdale, Arizona, virtually 50 years after he resigned from NASA on account of what he noticed as an absence of alternatives for scientists within the astronaut corps.
“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Australian-born astronaut, Dr. Philip Chapman,” wrote the employees on the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, a part of NASA’s Deep Space Network in Australia, on Twitter Wednesday.
Selected in 1967 after he turned a U.S. citizen, Chapman was a member of NASA’s sixth class of astronaut trainees. Chosen with 10 different scientists, the group nicknamed themselves “The Excess Eleven” (the “XS-11”) in gentle of their being advised from the beginning that their possibilities of flying into house have been slim.
“What motivated me to join the program is that I was deeply interested in space technology. I was in this country so I could work on space technology. NASA called for applications to become scientist-astronauts and that is as close as you can get to space technology,” stated Chapman in a 1969 interview with ABC News’ (Australia) Weekend Magazine.
After present process fundamental astronaut coaching, together with spending greater than a yr studying methods to fly NASA’s T-38 supersonic training jets at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, Chapman was assigned to help roles for the then underway Apollo moon landings. Most notably, he served as mission scientist for Apollo 14, which might land Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell on the lunar floor whereas Stu Roosa remained in orbit in 1971.
“I’m not in charge of them, I am coordinating them,” Chapman stated of the Apollo 14 science experiments and his position as mission scientist, in a news interview at the time. “I am acting as the liaison between the experimenters and the crew.”
That distinction was a degree of competition for Chapman, who bumped into objections when attempting to counsel further experiments for Roosa to carry out whereas circling the moon. There was an opinion throughout the program that the mission can be extra readily declared successful within the press if the variety of targets have been stored to a minimal.
“I was dumbfounded by the idea that the way to increase interest in spaceflight was to minimize the useful results, and insubordinate Australian that I am, I told Deke [Slayton, the director of flight crew operations] what I thought of his new policy,” Chapman stated in an interview for the 2019 e-book “Shattered Dreams: The Lost and Canceled Space Missions” by Colin Burgess (University of Nebraska Press).
Still, Chapman prompt one of many extra memorable science demonstrations to be carried out on the moon.
“I recall commenting to [Apollo 15 support crew member and capcom] Joe Allen that the moon would be a great place to repeat Galileo’s famous demonstration at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, because the objects would fall slowly, and in vacuum,” Chapman stated of what would change into Apollo 15 commander David Scott’s well-known “hammer and feather” drop in an interview with Emily Carney for her “This Space Available” column revealed by the National Space Society. “If I had thought about it seriously, I would have suggested it to Al Shepard on Apollo 14 — but perhaps he would have preferred his demonstration of golf on the moon.”
“It appears that we have to make a choice between losing our competency as pilots or losing our competency as scientists, said Chapman, as reported by The Associated Press at the time.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, on March 5, 1935, Philip Kenyon Chapman grew up and attended school in Sydney, earning his bachelor’s in physics and mathematics from the University of Sydney in 1956.
“I’m delighted to have been an Australian — I’m American now,” said Chapman in the 1969 ABC News interview. “I do not really feel it’s notably vital by way of what I’m doing in this system. It is a matter of sheer probability however I’m pleased it turned out that method.”
After serving with the Royal Australian Air Force for two years and spending 15 months at Mawson Station in Antarctica as an auroral/radio physicist, he worked for a year as an electro-optics staff engineer on flight simulators in Quebec, Canada, before becoming a staff physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he earned his masters in aeronautics and astronautics in 1964 and doctorate in instrumentation in 1967.
After his five years with NASA, Chapman briefly worked on laser propulsion and the concept of solar power satellites at the Avco Everett Research Laboratory in Massachusetts before turning his attention to commercial spaceflight. He was elected president of the L5 Society (today, the National Space Society) and served on the Citizens’ Advisory Council on National Space Policy and then became chief scientist for two companies, Rotary Rocket and t/space, which were independently developing commercial reusable spacecraft to advance the space economy and service the International Space Station.
In 2009, Chapman returned to the study of space-based power, founding the Solar High Study Group, to further the development of solar power satellites.
Chapman is survived by his wife of 37 years, Maria Tseng. He is preceded in death by his first wife, Pamela Gatenby, with whom he had two children, Peter and Kristen.