• Question: has space exploration had any effect on the production of medicine

    Asked by Stardust to Anne, Beth, COLFlight, Jon on 15 Oct 2015. This question was also asked by Winnie60701.
    • Photo: Columbus Flight Directors

      Columbus Flight Directors answered on 15 Oct 2015:

      Hi Stardust!

      There are hundreds of cases in which space exploration has provided benefits for medicine. Most of the experiments done on the space station are exactly to understand better how our body and our cells are affected by radiations and microgravity and through that understanding, to find ways to cure certain diseases here on Earth.

      In addition, there are also other technology developments which were invented for space travel, without thinking to medicine, that are today very useful also for medicine. This is what we call “spinoff”, something that was not intended but that proved to be very useful also in different applications.
      For example, in order to optimize the pictures taken by astronauts on the Moon, NASA developed in the 60s some advanced algorythms to compress and process images. These algorythms have later been used by doctors to improve the magnetic resonance imagery. Who knows how many persons have been saved thanks to those images? 😉

    • Photo: Beth Healey

      Beth Healey answered on 15 Oct 2015:

      Hi Stardust!

      In addition to what Sergio has already explained, we also make medical developments from research preparing us for future space missions as well as from space itself. For example, here at Concordia.

      Concordia is considered a spaceflight analogue, that is to say the conditions here are similar to space. Here I am running a number of experiments on our crew (psychological & physiological), the findings of which we hope will be useful to keep astronauts healthy on future long duration spaceflight missions. As well as being useful for astronauts the findings of many of these experiments are also useful for medicine on Earth. For example, one of the things I am considering is the effects of the 100 days without sun and prolonged use of artificial light on our eyesight. This is also of relevance for people working for long periods using artificial lights on night shifts, for example, factory workers.