Life Support Perspectives
Though just a small step on a cosmic scale, it will be a significant one for human kind, because it will require leaving Earth for extended periods of time with very limited return capability in case of unforeseen critical events. This is the most radical difference between low Earth orbit and interplanetary manned explorations.
Although neither Europe nor our international colleagues yet have any firm plans, the internationalisation of such a mission is not questionable. It is important for Europe to initiate a reflection about its participation to future manned missions.
In 1999, based on the initiative of two ESA's directorates (the Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity directorate and the directorate of Technical and Operation Support), the study on "the survivability and adaptations of humans to long duration Interplanetary and planetary environments" was initiated.
This study concerned the human related aspects: Potential Scenarios, Advanced Life Support Technologies, Crew Health and Performance and Survivability.
Over the past years, several studies have been conducted on various approaches on human exploration of the Moon and Earth's sister planet: Mars. From a technical and scientific point of view, it is probably the first time in recent years that the various relevant aspects involved for man survivability have been brought together and examined in such detail in Europe. Likewise, this is the first attempt to identify research synergies and interfaces between the technical (i.e. life support) and sciences (i.e medicine, psychology) aspects and to propose a common roadmap for future activities.
Over the last 20 years, European countries have developed their national facilities to study specific problems of extreme environments: space radiation, bed-rest, submarines, Antarctic environment, nuclear accident, bio-safety (i.e. viruses/bacteria).
Unfortunately, to our knowledge, the global view needed by future space explorations is not covered and there are currently no overall synergies or collaborations between these centres.
It must be pointed out that these facilities exist for some of our international partners (i.e. Bioplex for US and CEEF in Japan).
It is expected that a similar facility devoted to space exploration will have a very strong terrestrial interest in line with the last EC programme plan.
This study proposes to make a review of the existing infrastructures in Europe, to compare pros and cons and to propose an improvement/development plan.
Last update: 18 November 2007