Rehabilitation before Prevention: When Space Quest met with Medical Satiety

sky earth space working

Gone are the days when we waited for things to go wrong to mend them for the future. Unfortunately, human history speaks of days when humans were buried or mummified alive as a sacrifice to save the community from diseases to days where prisoners of war were used for experiments that have great relevance in today’s advanced medical science. But in the late 20th Century, we reached a position that can be said as the fastest period of advancement of medical science we know today. Be it using antibiotics for bacterial infections on soldiers to surgical interventions that gave a new life to billions of people, if not trillions. But after sending various animals, low tech devices to earth’s orbit and outside, the scientists at NASA and other space centres realised that we need more than just prevention of deformities and cure of astronauts coming back to earth after the trip to outer space. Although the astronauts are selected via rigorous methods evaluating them and selecting exceptionally healthy ones exhibiting peak physical and mental performance, a quarter of the year in space ends up developing various medical conditions. Rehabilitation becomes necessary even before the disorder actually occurs.

Ethical Arena

Sending animals to space drew some attention, but the vision of space made most of those sacrifices unaccounted, but now the Space war began. Sending artificial satellites was an achievement that many people thought had more benefits. The ability to show superpower was bygone, but sending humans to space and bringing them alive met with many ethical groups. Undoubtedly, the soldiers serving in the USSR had to give in to Government orders. However, the ethical groups that were to be managed for humans cannot be openly experimented with for space research. Hence, Prisoners of War came in. Medical Science no doubt salutes them for their forgotten sacrifices, for which we have our textbooks today. But since prisoners of war could not be sent to space either, scientists at space organisations like the US, USSR, and so forth started scratching their heads of using then physics theories and shreds of evidence in terms of models to invent gadgets that come in miniature versions today. Thus the first milestone of space training began when medical reports of Yuri Gagarin came by winter of 1961, based on which by September 1969 – “Mission Evolution through Hardware Commonality” was forwarded to President Nixon that grossly contained space-based training of potential candidates for space flight. Finally, the US Congress approved it in the fiscal year of 1972.

space research science astronaut
Photo by Pixabay on

Inventions on the way

If someone tried to be familiar with the origins and modifications of medical equipment, then Space organisations, especially NASA, have very significant involvement in developing and improving the equipment. Those projects back till the late 20th Century mainly had 2 intentions, one to enhance human missions to space and the other to enhance the life of mankind in hospitals and out in public. While many inventions and modifications came due to scientists continuing the project even after completing the mission they were commissioned for, some also continued because some commercial setups continued their projects for profiteering. Nevertheless, the inventions below changed medical care to a level that we can’t imagine a health care industry without it.

  • Digital image processing by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA changed how MRI, CT/CAT scans are viewed and analysed by Radio-diagnosis experts today
  • LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) was developed in partnership with Dr Michael DeBakey with Johnson Space Centre, NASA giving new lives through the hands of CTVS surgeons
  • Amputations now end with 6-10 times lighter prosthetics compared to what we had years back, thanks to ISRO and NASA
  • Programmable pacemakers and Implantable Heart aids changed the field of Cardiology and CTVS to a pace just impossible without NASA
  • Flow Cytometer in partnership with NASA with American Cancer Society changed Oncology and gave a boon to many other branches
  • Contributions to Robotic surgery training and devices, significantly in Rosa and DaVinci
  • Holter ECG and Stress testing training programs involved galvanometer modifications and results that have a deep impact on both diagnosis and health care
  • Cell-Matrix, now in experimentation has the potential to disrupt the very Axioms and postulates in God knows how many fields and save how many lives.
person holding silver round coins
Photo by Anna Shvets on

And the list goes on with one main motive in mind: to treat and rehabilitate the problems faced by an astronaut in outer space while they are in space and before they descend back to earth so that there is still life ahead for them on earth. Nevertheless, humankind has always benefited it in little ways that now we can’t think without.

Rehabilitation in progress

Even though in the branch of preventive medicine, some of the processes involved are still being practised in health care setups and public health administration, as we go to the lives of humans in microgravity or zero gravity, the demands become higher. In small ways, the space training of non-commercial organisations differs from commercial ones like SpaceX, Amazon subsidiary, etc. It is not just preventive exercises and measures but actual therapeutic steps in sync with the duration of the pre-mission, mission and post-mission. Some of them include –

A. Risks of Radiation Exposure

Potential Countermeasures –

  1. Implanted/Non-invasive Monitors
  2. Radiation Sickness medications and pre-Oncocare in addition to supplements
  3. Diet include and saturated with ingredients believed to reduce long haul harms
  4. Radiation shields and Components for reabsorption from the body

B. Risk of Isolation

Potential Countermeasures –

  1. Gardening, journaling and Behaviour control therapies/care
  2. Light and sound stimulation technologies for acclimatisation for and post-mission
  3. Virtual Reality Sessions pre-mission and during the mission

C. Risk of distance from Earth

Potential Countermeasures –

  1. Preservative acclimatisation and treatment
  2. Sustainable food system and monitors
  3. Telemedicine Care and Virtual assistants
  4. AI-based diagnosis and clinical decision support tools whilst Telemedicine intervention arrives

D. Risk of Microgravity changes

Potential Countermeasures –

  1. Exercise training extending post-mission care
  2. Metabolism improving supplements and curative medications
  3. Self-administered physiotherapies until post-mission medical care
  4. Pressure devices and Fine motor testing and therapeutics
  5. Fluid and ion balance care, Hyperbaric therapies
  6. Cardiac support and Space Motion sickness care

E. Risk of Non-Terrestrial Environment Change harms

Potential Countermeasures –

  1. Homeostasis stimulations
  2. Periodic Decontamination care
  3. Immune supplements and immunisations
  4. Routine Cleaning, air filter maintenance, AQ monitoring
Servicing Mission 4 astronauts practise on a Hubble model underwater at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston

The Need and Epilogue

Well, this article may be relatively short enough for the gist and to sum up, but space science has always involved researches that fulfilled medical satiety. The debates and criticisms always address the hunger pandemic and the wide gap of health care access in terms of haves and have-nots, but the same can be there in every field. Science and humanity have intermingled subsets of some extensive set that has a dimensional impact in fulfilling the satiety of medical science. Even the book of Sir A.P.J Abdul Kalam, “The Scientific Indian”, very lucidly and interestingly expressed how India has developed in science, but the impact of ISRO missions on healthcare and humanity mentioned in the book can never be underestimated. As the knitting of public services continues, decades have passed by and will go on; Prevention and Rehabilitation in the health care sector shall always be the need of the hour, be it with or without any calamity, pandemic and whatnot, the time stores for mankind.


  1. NASA Archives on public domain (
  2., run by Info Space Holdings
  3. The Hill Opinion Article by Dr Dorit Donoviel, Director, TRISH & Associate Professor in Baylor College of Medicine

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