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It seems logical that would NASA select military test pilots to be the first astronauts, right? They were used to risk. They were good...

It seems logical that would NASA select military test pilots to be the first astronauts, right? They were used to risk. They were good with machines. They already explored extreme environments. But these skills were not unique to test pilots. There were also mountaineers, scuba divers, and explorers. They too were considered. So why did NASA choose test pilots?

Matthew Hersch, assistant professor of history at Harvard University and author of Inventing the American Astronaut (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), talks about this and other aspects of the astronaut program.


Michael F. Robinson is professor of history at Hillyer College, University of Hartford. He’s the author of The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and The Lost White Tribe: Scientists, Explorers, and the Theory that Changed a Continent (Oxford University Press, 2016). He’s also the host of the podcast Time to Eat the Dogs, a weekly podcast about science, history, and exploration.