Deaf NASA Experiment Subjects Honored at "Deaf Difference + Space Survival" Exhibit

April 13, 2017



Did you know that during the 1950’s, NASA asked 11 Gallaudet students to participate in various experiments to test how the human body would respond in space? 


The experiments were extreme — some of them included Deaf people staying in a 20-feet wide room that spun 10 times per minute — for 12 days. Other experiments were floating in zero-gravity flights, riding up and down an elevator for hours at Empire State Building, or riding on a ship in a big storm in the North Atlantic Ocean.  


NASA researched used Deaf people in their experiments because extreme movements and forces often impacted the organs of the inner ear — making people sick — but Deaf people were “immune” to that. 


On Tuesday there was a new exhibit opened at Gallaudet University named, “Deaf Difference + Space Survival" to commemorate this part of history — and three of the 11 men were present. (Only five are currently alive). The exhibit was result of a research project by Gallaudet senior Maggie Kopp. I was able to get footage and pictures from Gallaudet University Communications — check it out! 


(Video clips start)


Barron Gulak, ’62: It is very inspiring. I was very adventurous — if now, I might be afraid. 


David Myers, ’62: Wow, it brings back wonderful memories from 56 years ago. 


Harry Larson, ’61: I remember one time I was swimming underwater and I lost track of where “up” was. 


Maggie Kopp: I’ve been working on this exhibit for a year and a half. I’ve learned so much from this experience. History tends to forget, dismiss, or ignore many stories. And how to bring those stories back into the discussion is to look into different sources, such as video, photos, diaries, journals, letters — all of those are certain representatives of history — it is not just what you see in books or what people talk about. All of those narratives tell the full story.

(Back to Moth Studio) 


Alex: Amazing history! The NASA Chief Historian, Dr. William Barry, thanked the Gallaudet 11 for their service. Big impact, not many know of it. It was a very nice ceremony with the research student, the people attending, the three men, Dr. I King Jordan attending and the Gallaudet President presenting — a big honor for the Gallaudet 11. Now we need a Deaf person to go into space and be the first Deaf person in space!


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