A group of 21 budding space medicine experts gathered at ESA’s astronaut centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany, in November for two days of inspiration and education as part of the 2018 Space Physicians Training Course.
The majority of participants were international medical doctors studying towards a Diploma in Aviation Medicine at King’s College London, UK, but were complemented by individuals practising in France and the Netherlands. All were eager to learn more about space medicine, as well as developments, opportunities and challenges for the future of long duration spaceflight.
ESA’s space medicine team plays a vital role in astronaut selection, developing preventative programmes, providing medical training, and ensuring astronaut health and wellbeing before, during and after their missions.
Course participants heard from ESA flight surgeons, biomedical engineers and countermeasure experts who shared their experiences at the EAC, as well as strategies to support astronaut health on missions to the International Space Station and beyond.
As part of the course participants were also shown ESA’s medical operations console, the EAC training hall and the flight clinic facilities of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).
One of the highlights was a lecture by the Austrian Space Forum on space mission analogues. This was complemented by a demonstration of their AoudaX prototype simulator spacesuit, during which participants undertook training exercises to simulate vital tasks such as unscrewing a bolt in space.
The course finished with a question and answer session with ESA astronaut Tim Peake who spoke about the physiological obstacles to long-duration spaceflight and whether he hoped to return to space. The short answer? Yes!
Course organisers David Green and Mareike Morawietz were ably supported by educational interns Daniel Robson and Magdalena Pollmann who have already started to prepare for next year with plans to incorporate participants from an even broader range of institutions.
In fact, David states “the only criticism we had was that two days is too short to learn about all the space medicine activities at ESA. With this in mind, we are working to develop an even more comprehensive and inclusive training programme for 2019”.