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Teams - Christopher F. Flynn, Flight Surgeon

Christopher Flynn was NASA's flight surgeon for the Wolf Increment. As a flight surgeon, Flynn was responsible for providing pre-flight, in-flight, and post-flight medical support to U.S. Astronaut David Wolf.

Flynn began his pre-flight responsibilities with astronaut Wendy Lawrence, who was initially assigned to this increment. Flynn became Wolf's flight surgeon after Lawrence was deemed too short to fit into the Russian Orlan EVA suit and Wolf was named as her replacement.

Flynn was responsible for the overall health condition of the American-Mir astronaut during training until launch, spending many hours a day with Wolf as he prepared for his long-duration flight. He also taught Wolf medical techniques necessary and potentially necessary on-orbit.

Flynn was also an advocate for issues related to the medical research that involved the American resident aboard the Russian Space Station Mir. In his Oral History, Flynn related that at times it was difficult to perform his duties during Wolf's training in Russia:

"[A]nother thing that happened after Dave Wolf was selected for the NASA-6 mission was a zero-gravity flight, where it's very clearly spelled out that a NASA flight surgeon is part of that flight. And yet when I arrived at the tarmac to get on the plane, I was told that there was not enough parachutes for me to have one. There was enough parachutes for everyone else, including six or seven civilians who were paying to fly on the flight, but there wasn't one for me.

"So that was another crisis where as a flight surgeon you're trying to implement some safety for the crew member, fulfilling your role to NASA (which is you'll to be there if the astronaut needs help).

"Because the whole reason that you're there is to protect a national asset and to make sure that person doesn't get injured after all those years of training, all that hard work. Yet at the same time, the dilemma that I was in -- standing under the wing of that plane was either the crewmember would fly without me or they wouldn't fly without me.

"If they didn't fly on that training flight, then they might not pass their training requirements and therefore the Russians would not allow them to fly to Mir. So the crewmember had an impossible situation of saying, 'Well, you know, Chris, I really want you to fly on the flight, but when it comes right down to it, I can't give up this flight if they won't let you get on.' At the same time, as the flight surgeon, I'm standing there saying, 'Well, the minute we stop having flight surgeons participate in dangerous things once, then that's the new set point for dealing with the Russian bureaucracy.' "

Christopher Flynn Oral History (PDF)

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Curator: Kim Dismukes
Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty