Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Welcome WALTON L. JONES Office of Advanced Research and Technalogy, NASA For the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, I should like to welcome you once again to Pensacola and to the Fourth Symposium on the Role of the Vestibular Organs in Space Exploration. For some of you, this represents our fourth occasion to gather together to discuss our research findings; for others, this is the first meeting. I trust, however, that all of you will find the present meeting as productive and rewarding as those of the past. I should like also to note the international flavor of our present conference. This year, we have representatives from many countries. It is agreed that the exchange of the latest research data among investigators such as these is having a stimulating effect on research in the field of vestibular physiology and, at the same time, is providing needed information for the space program. As director of NASA's Biotechnology and Human Research Division, I have an opportunity to review NASA support of various research programs. From this vantage point, it has become clear to me that the United States is entering a new age of science and technology and that a substantial impetus for our entry into this new age is coming as a result of NASA research programs. From our examination of many of our specific research efforts, whether conducted at NASA centers, universities, Government laboratories, or contractor facil- ities, I have come to identify certain trends and characteristics which appear to be largely re- sponsible for our rapid strides into this new era of technology. Obviously, in reviewing any research program, we give a heavy weighting to the extent to which the proposed effort fits in with and will contribute to these trends of the times. I should like to take a few moments this morn- ing to review some of the trends of the present-day research and to examine this symposium in the light of these trends. The first concerns the increasing use of the multidiscipline approach to problems in science. NASA is quite con- vinced that most of the problems facing the agency and the world today are so complex that they will yield only to research-and-develop- ment efforts that transcend individual scien- tific disciplines. For this reason, a substantial part of the funding for the NASA University Program is in the form of grants to the university rather than to specific departments, and it is intended to encourage broad integrated attacks on problem areas by the university as a whole. I am pleased that this policy is quite in keeping with the structure of this symposium which, in addition to having representatives of many of the nations of the free world, also has in attend- ance investigators representing a number of the traditional disciplines. I see physicians, physiologists, engineers, psychologists, phys- icists, and others, all working toward the common goal of understanding the human vestibular system. A second trend I should like to note concerns the increasing application by research scientists of space technology to basic scientific investiga- tions. An example is a miniature blood-pressure sensor, less than 0.05 inch in diameter. It is small enough to be inserted through a hypodermic needle, and it is now being used to obtain pres sure measurements inside the arteries and the heart without disturbing the flow of blood. In 1
THE ROLE OF THE VESTIBULAR ORGANS IN SPACE EXPLORATION this case, the sensor is based on transducers originally designed to measure pressures on flight models in NASA wind-tunnel tests. Another significant point concerning the re- search of today, and one of which I am sure you all are aware, has to do with the use of high-speed digital computers as an integral tool within the research effort. These computers, so critical in the control and monitoring of space flights, now are being put to use in real-time analyses of physi- ological experiments. The increased utilization of computers for the immediate reduction of data is due in part to the recent development of time- sharing systems which allow a single computer to service several users simultaneously through telephone quality-data lines. The first time- sharing computer system was placed into opera- tion early in the 1%0's. Since then, a number of commercial organizations have begun to offer this service, including the provision of operating soft- ware. These systems, which are expanding at an incredible rate, allow any investigator to have what is almost an on-line computer capability with a rapid readout concerning the results of his investigation. The excellent computer facility at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute pro- vides on-line capability to research studies con- ducted here. The use of on-line services such as this, plus the expanding availability of time- sharing systems, should greatly increase the pace of progress in the physiological sciences in years to come. Now I should like to turn to what I consider to be one of the most significant characteristics of modern research: the use of the systems- engineering approach. The systems-engineering approach, so important in the development of major aerospace equipment, now is being used in the study of physiological processes. One important phase in this approach involves the development of analytic models of system func- tions. These models, which in the case of dynamic systems draw heavily on control- engineering techniques, attempt to describe the interrelationships among the many com- ponents of a system and to predict the response of the system to any combination of stimulus forces. To quote a recent report of the Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences, one that deals with physiology in the space environment: Systems analysis, based on modeling of a system with known data on known factors, can provide significant exten- sions of our understanding. Moreover, this can be accom- plished at remarkably less cost in time, effort, and resources than by any other method now available to us. A word or two is in order, however, concerning both the hazards and the benefits of such efforts. First, it must be realized that the mathematical modeler deals essentially with input-output relationships. In describing these relationships, particularly when he is developing a model of some human physiological or behavioral system, the modeler draws largely upon the concepts of servomechanics or control engineering as explanatory devices for dealing with the adaptive character of these human systems. However, even if the model, once developed, is capable of describing perfectly the response of the system to any combination of stimulus forces, it does not mean that we understand the system from the biologist's point of view. It is obvious that the basic structure of the human does not consist of a large number of integrators, differentiators, and servomotors â at least not in the sense in which the mathema- tician uses these terms. These terms simply are useful in describing the functional char- acteristics of biological systems. The biologist will want to examine the precise structure of these systems, frequently at the subcellular level, so that he can understand the manner in which such phenomena as learning and adapta- tion take place âphenomena which, incidentally, are not easily handled by the systems-engineer- ing and mathematical-modeling techniques of today. The development of these models, however, can be of great value, since they offer an organized theoretical structure which is amenable to empirical testing and since they suggest reasonable explanations concerning the operation of component structures within the system. Thus, modeling should serve both as an incentive to research and as a framework for the integration of the results of different investigations. There is one final feature of some of our current research which I feel is worthy of com-
WELCOME ment. In this case, I would draw your attention to the unique opportunities for research which are presented with the advent of the space age. I believe it is incumbent on each investigator to recognize these opportunities and to exploit them as appropriate within the framework of his particular area of interest. As an example of these unique opportunities, consider the subject of our symposium today â"The Role of the Vestibular Organs in Space Exploration." Gravity exercises such a profound influence on the functioning of human postural mechanisms that many problems in basic vestibular physiology can be studied more effectively under weightless- ness than in a normal gravitational field. One of the dividends of space flight will be the opportunity to carry out such experiments that are impossible on Earth. It is obviously both difficult and expensive to program an experiment to be conducted during the course of a space flight. However, the information gained through such experiments can be so dramatic and so important that I should not like to see any of us lose sight of these opportunities. In conclusion, I believe there are a number of identifiable characteristics of what might be termed the mainstream of modern research pro- grams. These programs draw on the talents of many disciplines and mount a broad attack on a given problem area. They exploit recent ad- vances in technology and typically rely on high- speed computer analyses for data processing. They make good use of the techniques of systems analysis and are sensitive to the opportunities to conduct research in unique environmental set- tings. It seems to me that the current research in vestibular physiology, as exemplified by the totality of papers presented at these meetings, can be considered mainstream research in every respect. I am quite pleased that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has played some part in the support of this program.
SESSION I Chairman: W. J. McNALLY Montreal, Canada