Space medicine: staying healthy in space

Space medicine: staying healthy in space

Medical training is very important for astronauts and the key, very obvious, thing is that we
are not there – medical doctors are not there with them. If there are any medical problems, they are
alone, so they better know a little bit of medicine so they can handle these problems. So, two major challenges when we think about
exploration are: isolation, for very long periods of time, and also autonomy, the need to have autonomy,
which come together. How do you make someone who’s not a medical
doctor autonomous? Finding a good mix between technology and
training we could find a point or a midpoint in which sufficient medical care could be
provided without Earth support. I can give you an example: for instance, if someone has a severe infection
on the lungs, like pneumonia, on the way to Mars, the first diagnostics and the first treatment should be implemented or should be activated
by the astronaut helped by an artificial intelligence system that could detect the most dangerous situations. We don’t have to aim at having a super intelligent
digital doctor, maybe just something that is able to find
the most critical parts of an illness, like for instance: I have pneumonia I cannot
breathe I do not have enough oxygen, and solve that without making the final diagnosis. You put all that information in and send it
back to Earth, Earth analyses it and comes back with like
a consultation, but you should be able to start doing the
treatment when you are going to Mars without having to count on the support. And with this, many other things. So, autonomy is key here and I think the combination between technology
and training of the astronauts could be a good solution. Now you can imagine the huge benefits that
that could have if we develop that technology for people on
Earth. We have many places in Europe, and let’s not talk about the rest of the
world, in many places that are underrepresented by
medical equipment, medical doctors or medical services. The typical example is the Outback in Australia or the north of Canada where you have a density of population that is minimal and the next doctor is hours
away. Well, a system that could help a local person help his local injured citizen to reach a point of stability without making the fancy diagnosis by wrapping all the information, sending it to where the doctor is, using telemedicine, and getting the answer
back – that could be a break-through. That would actually save lives, and we at ESA are actually working on that. I think this is a very good example of how
benefits of space flight could be transferred to benefits on Earth.


8 thoughts on “Space medicine: staying healthy in space”

  • First missions to Mars I am sure will include a doctor…they'd be crazy not to…plus you gain a doctor's expertise in biology and chemistry for the search for life…those who go for those initial missions will include doctors and engineers like that…these missions will be different from the flags and footprints missions when NASA landed on the moon in the 60s/70s…it will be much more like the outposts on Antarctica I bet…still this is very interesting stuff…the moon settlements will be much closer…those may use the astronauts as paramedics with smart computers…but Mars? We'll see in the next decades hopefully….

  • "We don't need to aim at having maybe a superintelligent digital Doctor…"
    Um excuse me, the USS Voyager's Doctor would like a word with you.

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