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Sep 27, 2022
Schuchman Documentary Center
Schuchman Documentary Cente...
Deaf Difference + Space Sur...
Deaf Difference + Space Survival Curatorial Statement
This exhibition tells the story of Deaf people who served the nation by participating in early space studies.
They put their minds and bodies to work in centrifuges, on zero-gravity flights, and on rough seas.
We know that a small inner-ear organ is largely responsible for balance and motion sickness, but even today’s researchers have yet to understand all the inner workings. Deaf people who participated in these early space studies did not have that functioning inner ear organ. Their difference made them uniquely qualified to participate in motion studies, where they simply never got sick no matter how fast they spun, tipped or twirled.
Try to envision yourself in their shoes, or in their seat, in constant movement. With their help, NASA studied motion sickness, but also human responses to dangerous environments, confinement, and endurance. This history could have been overlooked. Deaf people’s contributions to the space program might have been lost without the willingness of these participants to share their stories, photos, and footage. That, paired with scientific reports, built an extraordinary story of human variation.
We are grateful to the Deaf people who volunteered themselves for research so the space program could make progress. Studies on the human response to space environments is ongoing, and we still have much to learn. Deaf test subjects helped researchers understand a puzzle that is still being pieced together.
Gallaudet University, chartered in 1864, is a private university for deaf and hard of hearing students.
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