Aerospace medicine is exactly how it sounds. It is the field of medical science which is analyzes the negative effects of flight on human health. It deals with aviation medicine, the care of airplane workers and passengers; and space medicine, which is solely considered with the care of astronauts. Doctors and scientists in this field try to increase the job performance and safety of those who work on and with the planes, as well as the health, of people who fly.
Aviation medicine: There are a multitude of stresses associated with air travel. They include motion sickness, noise, vibration, changes in oxygen levels, and rapid change in speed and atmospheric pressure. An important stress evident in fighter aircrafts is the rapid upward acceleration into the sky. This movement causes blood to be concentrated, in the lower parts of the body, i.e. legs and feet. The flow of blood to the heart may then be insufficient for the heart to maintain adequate blood supply to the brain, which could lead to immediate unconsciousness. As a result, fighter pilots must wear a special trouser, called G suits. These suits work to squeeze the blood out of the legs and back towards the heart. Flight surgeons are the medical professionals who specialize in aviation medicine. Flight surgeons help to create equipment and improve processes that aid in crew selection and training programs. Other areas of aviation medicine will include investigating flight related accidents; training crews for survival after crashing; and transporting sick or injured people by air a medical facility to treat the affected individual.
Space medicine: During space travel, weightlessness (freedom from the pull of gravity) potentially can occur, which can contribute to the development of several disorders. These include motion sickness, disorientation, and a reallocation of blood and other fluids from the legs and feet to the head. Weightlessness also can cause the loss of bone and muscle tissue in the astronaut’s feet and legs. This condition is determined to occur because the bones and muscles of the astronaut are no longer needed to work against the pull of gravity. Another hazard of space flight is being exposed to higher levels of radiation from the sun, and other objects in space. Being exposed to radiation increases the astronaut’s risk of developing leukemia or other debilitating cancers. Today’s spacecrafts provide way too little protection for the space traveler, against radiation for long duration manned flights into deep space (space beyond the earth and the moon).
Many scientists believe that the greatest negative effect space travel can have on a astronaut is more so psychological, rather than physical. For those dreamers who wish someday to travel far and beyond earth’s outer boundaries, please do not let this read discourage or de-motivate you from achieving your goals. Sometimes, you have to make sacrifices to accomplish the unimaginable.
Money, K. E. “Aerospace medicine.” World Book Student. World Book, 2010. Web. 2 July 2010.