Montag, 11. Januar 2016 - 20:00 Uhr
Medical risks connected with space travel researched as tourist flights take step closer
With the reality of commercial space flights no longer light years away, there is a growing interest in space medicine.
Doctors from across the country have travelled to Adelaide to better understand the medical risks associated with space travel.
The Australasian Society of Aerospace Medicine is holding a three-day conference covering the medical challenges surrounding humans in space.
Guest speaker and former astronaut, Canadian Dr Robert Thirsk, spent 205 days in space.
He is eager for more people to experience what is beyond Earth.
"I'm looking forward to the day when we're flying not tens or hundreds of people per year, but tens of thousands of people per year," he said.
Dr Thirsk said better understanding the medical risks of going into orbit was important.
"Space environment, vacuum, extremes of temperature, radiation, weightlessness are pretty tough on the human body," he said.
"We're determined to continue exploring space so we have to come up with medical counter measures that allow astronauts to continue and thrive in space."
Studies looking at ways to counteract the physiological impacts are underway.
Dr Gordon Cable, from the Australasian Society of Aerospace Medicine, said the risks of space travel were still largely unknown.
"We need a lot of research in a lot of different areas and we have a very limited population of people who have flown into space currently," he said.
"There are many things we still don't know about space and the effect of space on human physiology."
Dr Cable said a problem space tourists would face was adjusting to microgravity.
"It might be certainly one of the attractive aspects of space flights for many of the tourists but it comes with some unexpected risks such as space motion sickness and interaction with certain disease processes that the patients may have, for instance problems they may have with the cardiovascular system or with medications they take," he said.
Dr Thirsk said these challenges could be overcome.
"The answer of course is to fly more and more people, and the new era that's dawning of space tourism perhaps that will allow us to do a bit more medical research with more people," he said.
"But number one we have to make sure people are aware of the risks, and number two allow as many people to fly as possible but knowing that there are some health limits, there are some fitness limits beyond which if you do not meet, you cannot fly."
Dr Thirsk said while commercial space travel was yet to take off, medical testing of astronauts in space was having spin-off effects for people on the ground.
"For example osteoporosis ... is very similar to what happens to astronauts on orbit, but four times faster. So we're guinea pigs or laboratory rats to help researchers on the ground better understand osteoporosis, its mechanisms and what some of the countermeasures and treatments could be," he said.