Future long-duration spaceflights are now being planned to the Moon and Mars as a part of the "Vision for Space Exploration" program initiated by NASA in 2004. This report describes the design reference missions for the International Space Station, Lunar Base, and eventually a Mars Expedition. There is a need to develop more stringent preflight medical screening for crewmembers to minimize risk factors for diseases which cannot be effectively treated in flight. Since funding for space life sciences research and development has been eliminated to fund program development, these missions will be enabled by countermeasures much like those currently in use aboard the International Space Station. Artificial gravity using centrifugation in a rotating spacecraft has been suggested repeatedly as a "universal countermeasure" against deconditioning in microgravity and could be an option if other countermeasures are found to be ineffective. However, the greatest medical unknown in interplanetary flight may be the effects of radiation exposure. In addition, a Mars expedition would lead to a far greater level of isolation and psychological stress than any space mission attempted previously; because of this, psychiatric decompensation remains a risk. Historically, mortality and morbidity related to illness and injury have accounted for more failures and delays in new exploration than have defective transportation systems. The medical care system on a future Mars expedition will need to be autonomous and self-sufficient due to the extremely long separation from definitive medical care. This capability could be expanded by the presence of a physician in the crew and including simple, low-technology surgical capability.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health