Spaceflight Medical Systems

  • Terrance A. Taddeo
  • Cheryl W. Armstrong

Providing adequate medical care for spaceflight crews requires that appropriate diagnostic tools and treatment modalities be available to them throughout their mission. The challenge for mission planners is deciding what medical capability to provide and then packaging it in a way that meets the many unique constraints of space flight. Crews also must receive adequate training that will help them to make correct diagnoses and administer the appropriate level of care to an ill or injured crewmember.

As discussed in Chap. 7, identification of appropriate levels of medical care is driven by the risks that have been identified in space flight. One practical way of identifying such risks is by studying risks among analogous populations, such as military pilots, submarine crews, and Antarctic winter-over research teams. From these groups, which undergo medical screening processes similar to those of spaceflight crews, the probabilities and risks of illness occurring during a mission can be estimated. Review of reported illnesses in U.S. and Russian spaceflight crews also can be useful, although such data were not available to medical mission planners in the earliest days of space flight. The duration of a space mission and the number of high-risk activities associated with it (e.g., extravehicular activities) will also influence decisions concerning the content of onboard medical systems. Mission planners must also consider environmental factors that are unique to the space environment—factors that include microgravity, radiation, toxicology, microbiology, and purity of reclaimed water. Finally, the unique physiological responses to space flight must also be examined—space adaptation syndrome, cardiovascular deconditioning, and bone demineralization, among others. Only by accounting for all of these factors can the best possible care and facilities be provided to spaceflight crews.


Motion Sickness Space Flight Space Shuttle Silver Sulfadiazine Space Shuttle Mission 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terrance A. Taddeo
    • 1
  • Cheryl W. Armstrong
    • 2
  1. 1.NASA Johnson Space CenterHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Wyle LaboratoriesHoustonUSA

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