Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It is the day we remember those who have given their lives in the line of duty. Therefore, it is fitting to honor those who have served.
One such man was trampoline pioneer, George Nissen. Today, we have a contribution from Dagmar Nissen, George’s eldest daughter. She pulled together a short article about a piece published in USA Today on May 23, 2010 about astronaut Scott Carpenter that featured her father. Carpenter, who is best known as one of the original seven astronauts selected for NASA’s Mercury Project in 1959, had a long history with Mr. Nissen, otherwise known as LTJG Nissen in the US Navy.
Thank you Dagmar for the article. And, Thank you Mr. Nissen for your service.
Trampolines Take Flight
5 Decades after 5 Hours in Space
Fifty years after he was plucked from the Atlantic Ocean and deposited onto the deck of the USS Intrepid, pioneering astronaut Scott Carpenter marked the anniversary of his three orbits of Earth and tense re-entry with a return to the ship that brought him to safety.
USA Today, May 25, 2010 pg 3A
Pioneer trampoline inventor, George Nissen twice played an important role in Carpenter’s preparations for future flight into space. The two men first met during WW2 at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California where Ensign George Nissen served as an instructor with the navy’s pre-flight training program. One of his students was a cadet by the name of Scott Carpenter who spent six months learning to bounce on a trampoline.
The navy’s fast-track V-5 Pre-Flight Training Program was created following the attack on Pearl Harbor where the navy experienced an acute shortage of fighter pilots, as most had perished in the horrendous assault. The sudden and immense loss required an immediate increase in recruitment and training of pilots.
The navy faced a lack of training facilities as well, and turned to colleges and universities across the nation requesting immediate use of their facilities. The V-5 Pre-Flight Training Program emphasized three months of intense classroom work and physical training. This included an array of sports from football, wrestling and boxing to gymnastics.
George Nissen’s trampoline, the bouncing apparatus he invented only ten years earlier caught the military’s eye. The trampoline offered a unique method for physical fitness training, plus the added benefit of kinesthetic awareness. These were still the years when pilots didn’t have any other method to experience weightlessness other than by flying or parachute jumping. Thus, the trampoline was used as an easier and safer method to experience being airborne.
Nearly twenty years later, Carpenter entered the astronaut program and prepared to fly the Aurora 7. Remembering his experiences at St. Mary’s College, Carpenter called up George and asked for a trampoline to aid his fellow astronauts in developing spatial orientation. George replied that he had something even better. He sent a Spaceball unit down to NASA in Houston, Texas. Scott Carpenter and his fellow astronauts loved it!
Dagmar Nissen Munn
Pictured above is the first American Trampoline Team to compete in the former USSR. The US was invited to compete in the first ever Dobrovolsky Cup in 1974 in honor of Georgi Dobrovolsky, the celebrated cosmonaut who lead the Soluz 11 Mission. Seated in the center surrounded by the athletes is Scott Carpenter, special guest of George Nissen’s.
From left to right are: Chris Eilertsen (standing), Leigh Hennessy (in bottom corner), Marilyn Stieg, Scott Carpenter, Julie Johnson, Alexandra Nicholson, John Kauffman and Stormy Eaton.
Photo supplied by Chris Eilertsen.