Medical treatment

Keeping humans healthy in space will improve medical treatment on Earth

Every discovery made in space has implications for life on Earth.

Too often, endless announcements of new space launches, partnerships, and the golden price of returning to the moon and deep space overshadow the more subtle advances in medical research and technology that make a return to earth viable. final border.

“How do you make sure the astronauts are healthy and stay that way? said Rachael Dempsey, head of communications at the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH), during a talk Thursday at CES 2022 attended by Interesting Engineering. This is a valid question, and one with no easy answers.

But if we are serious about increasing human presence and industry in space, a major incentive is the overwhelming benefits that await those who remain on Earth.

Five major challenges for healthcare in space

There are five conventional dangers to manned spaceflight: “A lot of things can go wrong, but you can group them into five categories,” Dempsey added. Isolation is an underestimated risk on long-term deep space missions. We’ve already seen what it can do during the extended (and in some areas, ongoing) shutdowns due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. Now imagine if you knew that outside your front door there was nothing but the endless black abyssal depths of cold, inhuman space, forever. On a less psychological note, gravity fields are also a necessary part of human health. This means we have to find ways to compensate, which could mean simulating gravity.

Then there are the challenges of performing and executing medical care at great distances from Earth, when astronauts are forced to give differential diagnoses and act on their own, since there is no no time for a second opinion from mission control. Not to mention the immense cosmic radiation in interplanetary space, which can have drastic effects on biological functions. “As we solve these five challenges of spaceflight, it also opens up new innovations for the medical and mental health of humans who remain on Earth,” Dempsey added. “Think also of the people who work in high radiation environments here on Earth,” she added. Almost every medical advance made for deep space missions also has the potential for deeply transformative advances here on Earth.

Space travel will make us face isolation, radiation and more. Source: TRISH/CES 2022

“Trapped in a tin can with three colleagues” until Mars

Biosensors will also become a crucial part of diagnostic and therapeutic advances in the near future. “NASA is a huge fan of platform technologies that can mount and serve a myriad of functions,” Z3VR CEO Josh Ruben said at the event. “Some of the best VR apps are perfect for the timely emergency scenarios” humans will face in deep space. “We are looking for technologies that will go beyond things like heart rate and measure a host of different health conditions and physiological responses, so the crew can assess and meet their own medical needs,” said Jordan Lewis. , Head of Diversity at TRISH. program manager, at the CES 2022 event. “TRISH is designed to push boundaries and take risks in ways that NASA isn’t really capable of.” And Dempsey added: “Finding the big innovative ideas means we have to look to companies, and even video game companies. It’s just about finding this technology and making it meet a real need.”

Going to Mars with a few other astronauts is a lot like going to Mars “with three colleagues. It’s going to have serious mental health consequences,” Ruben said, of the unique and unforgiving physical and mental burdens of traveling. for many months from Earth to Mars. Ruben went on to say that his company has integrated an exercise machine for the ISS into a gaming platform, which has become a way to address some of the mental health issues that will inevitably arise “when you’re trapped on a tin can with three other people for 18 months.”

Space Care Future Care
The benefits to future care from the advancement of space care are innumerable. Source: TRISH/CES 2022

Space healthcare is in high demand

Ruben also talked about a new system that passively monitors eye movement, which has direct implications for the long-term health maintenance of humans on deep space missions. “How do we keep [astronauts] safe, sane, healthy on the way to Mars and during long-term missions” on its surface is crucial, Ruben said. “We are interested in sensors without a lot of wireless. Less bulky sensors and electronics overall – for astronauts, they need to be free-floating and not tied to something like a desktop computer,” Dempsey said. The next steps for TRISH are to continue to establish industry ties, despite growing rivalries between major aerospace companies like Sierra Space “We are building relationships with all commercial spaceflight companies, including SpaceX” and others.

“The astronauts that we are going to send to the [Artemis] missions are going to be very different from the ones we sent on the Apollo missions,” Dempsey said. This includes not only potential differences in maintaining women’s physical health, but also more subtle differences in whether It’s also “extremely important to consider human disabilities and the special needs of people in space,” Ruben added. Suffice it to say that while the myriad health issues For future astronauts may seem overwhelming, there are too many direct lines between solving in space and improving life on Earth for us to back down.