From Orbit to OR: Space Solutions for Terrestrial Challenges in Medicine
Beginning with a brief review of the dawn of the Space Age and the historical context that spurred such tremendous technological achievement, this chapter explores the use of space technologies in the context of their applicability to medicine on Earth. Space missions have become increasingly ambitious, calling for ever-more rigorous technologies to ensure functionality, survival and safety. The necessity for highly accurate, reliable and advanced technologies in space science and manned spaceflight has resulted in impressive advances in imaging, new materials and computer technologies. These advances have in turn been spun-off for application in medicine, a field that similarly demands highly precise, durable equipment. The chapter explores such medical spinoffs in the context of three categories: diagnostics & imaging, treatment & management and safety. Meanwhile, the need to understand human adaptation and physiological response in the harsh space environment has spawned an immense pool of research on the subject, the knowledge of which has also been applied towards understanding disease processes, treatments and management strategies on Earth. Topics explored here include spinoffs as they relate to particular aspects of the space environment, specifically radiation exposure, physiological response to micro-gravity, pressure, temperature & atmosphere, nutrition & diet and psycho-social issues. Special attention is given to telemedicine and its spinoffs, owing to its potential to address issues of healthcare accessibility and global development. These latter two topics are further explored in two case studies at the end of the chapter. Ultimately, space technologies are shown to be highly relevant and beneficial in day-to-day medicine on Earth, and continue to advance the limits of accuracy, efficiency and survival on Earth.
KeywordsSpace medicine Spinoff technology Telemedicine Healthcare accessibility
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