Space Medicine

The Core of the Problem

Advancements in longevity are crucial to the future of the space economy. People should be able to not only live and work in space for weeks or months, but also perform amazing feats of engineering for years and, eventually, decades. In ideal conditions on Earth, the human body can live up to 90 years until aging-associated diseases lead to its decay and death. Surviving the harsh conditions of space travel, especially multi-month or multi-year missions, will lead to enormous physical losses for astronauts. 

With current technology, it would take a crewed mission roughly 6 months to reach Mars, 18 months the Asteroid Belt, and up to 7 years Titan. Given the current state of medical technologies, a multi-year journey to the nearest star system (let alone a multi-decade one) would probably not be survivable.

The interplanetary environment presents immensely difficult challenges: zero gravity weakens and wreaks havoc on all bodily systems; cosmic radiation damages cellular DNA; traveling any appreciable distance will result in decades of aging.

Space Medicine Framework
Radioprotectors

Outside the safe cocoon of Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field, subatomic particles zip around at close to the speed of light. Space radiation can penetrate habitats, spacecraft, equipment, spacesuits, and even astronauts themselves. The interaction of ionizing radiation with living organisms can lead to harmful health consequences, such as tissue damage, cancer, and cataracts in space and on Earth. The underlying cause of many of these effects is damage to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

Drugs called Radioprotectors are capable of reducing damage caused by space radiation and increasing astronauts’ resistance to radiation exposure. Having a formidable potential, they are extremely important in the Space Exploration Era.
 

Biomarkers

A biomarker is a measurable indicator of some biological state or condition. Biomarkers are often measured and evaluated using different biological samples to examine normal biological processes, pathogenic processes, or pharmacologic responses to a therapeutic intervention. In this case there is a list of biomarkers that indicate the damage caused by space operations in the astronaut’s organism. The continuous monitoring of small changes in such biomarkers, and the continuous and commensurate micro-adjustment of treatments in response, allows for lowering the harmful impact on individual’s health and elongating the lifespan of a space traveller
The data is partly taken from the “The Rising Wave of Human Biomarkers of Longevity”report by Longevity International and Deep Knowledge Group.

Technology Readiness Level (TRL) is a method of estimation of the maturity of technologies. Today, the most promising technologies, i.e. the ones that have the highest growth potential, have from 4 to 8 TRL. 

TRL of Space Travel-Related Biomarkers

Radiation Resistance

Most Advanced Space Medicine Companies

Having analyzed the most advanced SpaceTech companies, it could be concluded that the majority of them are based in Northern America.

Universities and Organisations that Make Studies in the Following Directions
Supporting Human Life in Space: Food,  Bone and Muscle Loss
Food
Bone and Muscle Loss

NASA is currently looking for ways to provide astronauts with long-lasting and easily digestible nutrients, such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Simply providing astronauts with multivitamins will not be enough. The challenge here is how to do that in a closed environment devoid of sunlight or Earth’s gravity.

Advanced Plant Habitat
Biological Research in Canisters

The Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) is a growth chamber for plant research on a space station. It uses LED lights and a porous clay substrate with controlled release fertilizer to deliver water, nutrients and oxygen to the plant roots.

The Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) is a facility used to study the effects of space on organisms small enough to grow in petri dishes (e.g. yeast and microbes).

The human body evolved within the constant pull of the Earth’s gravity. In the microgravity environment aboard the orbiting International Space Station, bones and muscles don’t have to support the body’s mass (weight on Earth). Without Earth-like exercise, astronauts would experience bone and muscle loss or atrophy during their stay in space. Bone and muscle atrophy also occurs from normal aging, sedentary lifestyles and illnesses. This may cause serious health issues from injuries due to falls or osteoporosis for both astronauts and people on Earth.​​

Bone and Muscle Loss: How Top Space Food Companies Tackle the Challenge 

The Vegetable Production System is a deployable plant growth unit capable of producing salad-type crops in space. This technology will provide future space explorers with a sustainable food supplement during their long-duration missions.

Alter-G uses NASA technology to help astronauts preserve their muscle weight. The company also works on improving astronauts’ health in future missions.

Developed by NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation, ISS Fit app is designed for use aboard the International Space Station. It provides astronauts with an option to track their food intake by making audio recordings, shooting videos, taking photos or scanning barcodes.

Being a health technology company, Mission: Space Food brings together a team of Michelin star chefs, aerospace engineers, doctors, astronauts and cognitive nutritionists. They are working together to define the future of space nutrition.

A company that develops space food which can also be used for mass consumption on Earth.

The Space Foods Company Ltd. has the knowledge and ingredients to provide its services to the modern space traveller.

Main obstacles of Space Exploration and Colonisation 
  • Slow and expensive spacecrafts

  • Mass-inefficient fuels

  • Low-speed transmitters

  • Calculation-heavy navigation

  • Water and air purification, recapturing and generation

  • Soil fertilization for agricultural purposes

  • Efficient renewable energy generators

  • The resource-efficient architecture of habitats

  • Governance of colonies

  • Colonisation permit

  • Secession and independence 

  • Population ethics and inequality

  • Radiation damage

  • Muscle and bone loss

  • Harmful long-term flights

  • Psychological impact

  • Space dust filtering

  • Electromagnetic emission shielding

  • Compact air-tight habitats

  • Biohazard protection