Maintaining humans in healthy condition in the extreme and naturally hostile environment of outer space requires R&D in cutting-edge technologies and state-of-the-art methodologies. Terrestrial and orbital research facilities support renowned scientists across Europe and other countries united in their work to better understand the functioning of the human organism and their efforts to keep it healthy.
Although keeping an astronaut healthy in space may seem far removed from the tedium of healthcare on the ground, the synergies between the two extremes abound: Remote monitoring of crew in space and similar monitoring of workers in extreme environments, or caring for the aged at home, all require similar smart sensor technologies, remote diagnoses, and support services.
The similarities do not stop there: Long periods of weightlessness result in similar deterioration of bone and muscle fibre as bedridden patients or those confined to wheelchairs. Understanding the functioning of the physiology of the human organism in space and developing corrective measures can contribute towards solving similar problems terrestrially.
Not only are the similarities in the physiological domain, but are carried over to the psychological: Smoothly running teamwork, operational errors (that can be life threatening), behaviour under stress, have similar critical consequences in space as they do under similar stressful conditions on earth, e.g. pilots, aircraft controllers, nuclear facility operators, rescue operations, etc. Continued research and development in human exploration at the same time indirectly (and sometimes, directly) contributes towards improvement of health in daily life.
For more information on research see the ESA research programme.
Last update: 14 January 2008