Monday, February 20, 2006

Space Doctor, Anyone? Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas
Despite the fact that science fiction shows usually cast space doctors as a main character, it is ironic that we are only now seriously considering "casting a role" for one within our solar travels.

(Universe Today) If humans are going to be spending longer periods in space, on the Moon, or even on Mars, it's just a matter of time before they'll need surgery. Can delicate surgery even be done in the weightlessness? [...]

Professor Adam Dubrowksi of surgery doesn't see why not, and he's making space surgery a focus of his research.

There'll be a need for it once astronauts in the International Space Station begin to stay on board for extended periods, says Dubrowski, who is also a kinesiologist in the Surgical Skills Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Although astronauts are given some medical training (several hours at best), a skilled physician will be a "necessary good" onboard, especially for deep space missions towards the Moon or even Mars.

The Canadian Space Agency is already planning to develop a "surgery training protocol" for future astronaut doctors, in order to make sure that they are prepared for operating within a microgravity environment.

(Universe Today) Space-surgery training will be three-pronged, Dubrowski explains. The first step is adaptation to zero gravity using an inverted paradigm in which experimental participants are placed upside down on something similar to a bed to "get more of an idea of weightlessness."

The second step will be simulating zero gravity in a swimming pool [...]

Third, trainees will take their basic surgery skills on parabolic flights in which an airplane ascends and descends roughly 40 times, creating a transient zero-gravity environment on the descents.

These tests will probably be expanded once humanity establishes a strong presence on the Moon. Although medical personnel may become a common scene aboard the space station and elsewhere, hopefully they will be as exciting as the doctors seen on Star Trek or Babylon 5.

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You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

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~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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