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A deep dive into Space Medicine by C Moksha Vijay, 8th Grade, Hyderabad

Updated: Jun 10, 2022

Space exploration is a spectacular achievement which may include some human involvement required expeditions to outer space too. This requires the Astronauts not only to have gone through their extremely challenging training but also to be in their best mental and physical conditions as this is required by them while they are performing very important and consequential tasks out there in space. Space Medicine is the branch which deals with the health and fitness of the Astronauts. It is a branch, born in the 1950s, of medicine that is involved in dealing with the biological and physiological effects on the human body for spaceflight.

Medicine in Space is not much different from medicine on Earth, likewise it has progressed step by step, slowly and deeply, evolving with space flight and understanding the capabilities and limits of our bodies and our perceptions, but on the other hand it also had to evolve as quickly as possible, as it had to support the survival of humans in space, an environment for which human bodies were not designed for. Space medicine plays a vital role in the human exploration of space. The productivity, safety and health of the living element in the spaceflight environment is looked after by this field, space medicine. The main aim of space medicine is to make sure astronauts work in a safe environment and to bring to light how well people can adapt to the various environments, like to the earth’s after their voyage and for how long one can sustain himself the extreme circumstances they have to face in space. Space medicine plays a crucial role in the human exploration of space as, for example, being in space astronauts are put though extremely low-gravity conditions to almost no-gravity conditions, which impacts the way a human body functions like for example weight loss, upward fluid shift, anemia, loss of sight, cardiovascular deconditioning, muscle atrophy, bone and muscle loss due to floating for long hours in space and mainly neurological, cardiopulmonary, and immunological processes; and only experts in this field can ensure the safety, and health of these space travelers.

The most recalcitrant and troubling of all these problems is the persistent bone loss related to negative calcium balance, this problem appears to be irreversible, and critical. And another issue which is very common is fluid flowing to the head and increasing ocular pressure which results in optic nerve damage and loss of sight. The key countermeasure suggested by experts in space medicine, space doctors, is just exercise. In the International Space Station, the astronauts work out for about two hours to three hours a day, using exercise bikes, treadmills, and an IRED -- a device specially developed to allow astronauts to do resistive training. Medications, too, may help with some problems. For example, bisphosphonates is a drug used by osteoporosis patients to slow the rate of bone loss. This drug may prove useful for astronauts, too, who suffer from similar bone loss issues in space. These countermeasures work only for short periods and are just temporary, so, space doctors, scientists and engineers together came up with Artificial Gravity, as they figured that absence of Gravity was the main cause for most of the medical issues.. Another large obstruction in space exploration is space radiation and its effects on human health. The mental health of astronauts is also a very significant thing to consider. Confinement and isolation far from home, earth, in addition to missing loved ones, can have large effects on astronauts. The study of psychology, which also comes under Space Medicine, can help treat anxiety or loneliness in astronauts, helping them build toughness in space environments.

Space medicine is now the latest UK specialty to be recognized by the Royal College of Physicians in the General Medical Council and the UK. Space medicine has been the key part of our past space successes and will continue to be the primary part of it in the future too.

  • C Moksha Vijay

references: Space Medicine – Space Medicine and its Importance in Space Exploration — McMaster NEUDOSE NASA - Space Medicine NASA Programs Aims to Prepare Astronauts to Become Space Doctors What is Aerospace Medicine? EMRA

“The future of Space Flight” by Arnauld Nicogossian, M.D & Deborah Pober

“An overview of space medicine” by P. D. Hodkinson, R. A. Anderton, B. N. Posselt and K. J. Fong

“Advances in Space Medicine Applied to Pandemics on Earth” by Ilaria Cinell and Thais Russomano

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