The ad astra vita project wishes to express its support for, and solidarity with, the people of Ukraine during this horrendously difficult time, and for all the humanitarian initiatives underway to provide support and aid during the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.
Even though we may be far away, we can still contribute through offering our support and donations, and perhaps even providing tangible support to Ukrainian refugees.
For ABC News updates on the war in Ukraine, visit the ABC News website: https://www.abc.net.au/news/world/ (specific articles can be easily located by searching on ‘Ukraine’).
An ‘Understanding Ukraine’ Summary Sheet kindly provided by our Global Humanitarian Advisor Chris Piper from TorqAid – www.torqaid.com/understanding-ukraine. This gives a useful overview of the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, as well as in surrounding countries (viz-a-viz refugees).
If you would like to make a donation to aid agencies, here are some reputable options:
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Ukraine Emergency Appeal: https://msf.org.au/donate/ukraine-crisis. The healthcare system is one of the early casualties of natural disaster and war, and access to basic healthcare and medicines, especially for people with chronic medical conditions, can become difficult to impossible, with potential dire outcomes. MSF is working to help fill this urgent need, as is the WHO.
This year we were extremely honoured and excited to be nominated as a finalist in the A22 Aviation/Aerospace Australia Airspace Awards in the category of “Outstanding Outreach with a STEAM Program or Project” and in the “Innovator of the Year” category for the Australian Space Awards. It is a wonderful, humbling achievement just to see the work that we are doing so well valued by our peers and colleagues. Thank you very much to everyone who has supported us along the journey, and we aim to keep on working hard in continuing our mission.
Introducing our new special guest editor, Philip Vukovic – BSc (Melb). Many thanks to Philip for this wonderful piece for anyone who is curious about ‘commercial spaceflight’, something that has been in the news a lot over the past year.
Are you wondering where you should go for your next big holiday? Well… deliberating on your next holiday destination may no longer be necessary as commercial spaceflight becomes more accessible to the public and places space on the list of future possible getaways!
What is commercial spaceflight and space tourism?
Commercial spaceflight involves the development or use of spaceflight technology that is conducted and paid for by an entity other than a government agency. Prior to the birth of commercial spaceflight, space programs were largely held back due to governments experiencing budget constraints. As such, the prosperity of commercial spaceflight is imperative for the continual exploration of space. A thriving commercial space industry will, among other things, make space tourism a possibility for the public, allowing humans to travel through space for recreational purposes.
The types of spaceflights
The two most common spaceflights are known as suborbital and orbital spaceflights. Suborbital spaceflight involves reaching space (typically considered to be an altitude of 100km as defined by the Kármán line), however, returns without orbiting the Earth. Orbital spaceflight on the other hand, does involve travelling around the Earth one or more times.
Recent events in commercial spaceflight
In 2020, SpaceX used its Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket to send humans into Earth orbit, becoming the first commercial company to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under contract to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The company then went on in 2021 to carry out the first all-civilian low earth orbit spaceflight mission. The three-day flight completed by the Inspiration4 crew, consisting of four private individuals, helped raise money and awareness for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Future all-civilian missions are also in plans by SpaceX such as the #dearMoon project. SpaceX plan to send the first all-civilian crew for a week-long journey to the moon and back in 2023. Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese entrepreneur and art collector, purchased all seats aboard the rocket and detailed his plans to the world. The project aims to bring aboard 6-8 artists to develop an all-inspiring universal art exhibition that will be showcased on Earth.
Both Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin also endeavoured to push the boundaries of commercial spaceflight by going to space themselves. Both suborbital flights were a success and will ultimately help pave the way for future commercial missions. Such commercial missions also provide inspiration for the next generation of space faring humans.
Floating in the environment of microgravity, an ecstatic Branson proclaimed, “To all you kids down there, I was once a child with a dream. Looking up to the stars. Now, I’m an adult in a spaceship with lots of other wonderful adults looking down to our beautiful, beautiful Earth. To the next generation of dreamers, if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.”
The risks associated with commercial spaceflight
Data from the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration shows that a total of 1160 Americans have undertaken orbital and suborbital spaceflights, with 927 people undertaking orbital flights and 233 undertaking suborbital flights. 17 people have lost their lives carrying out orbital flights, while 3 lives have been lost during suborbital flights.
This translates to a 1.75% chance of death associated with both orbital and suborbital spaceflight. Therefore, before we go off to the travel agency to book our next space holiday, we should be aware of the possible risks associated with commercial spaceflight in order to enhance crew safety and avoid disasters from occurring.
Commercial space companies will need to take many things into consideration to ensure the safety of passengers. Some of which are spacecraft design, the training of crew members and deciding whether highly trained astronauts will accompany civilians to ensure their safety. In an attempt to avoid burdening a nascent industry, commercial imperatives are currently well ahead of government regulation, leaving commercial operators to decide what training is required. for those going to space.
As there are no specific requirements, it is hard to say exactly what such space training may entail. However, it is quite likely that this may involve informed consent, emergency response and physiological familiarisation training. Passengers may be trained to withstand high G-forces by subjecting them to high levels of acceleration (“G”) in a centrifuge. They may also spend some time in an altitude chamber to simulate low atmospheric pressure and low oxygen levels.
Regulating commercial spaceflight
At present in the United States, commercial space launch and re-entry, whether carrying humans or just cargo, are regulated and licensed by the Department of Transportation, via the Office of Commercial Space Transportation in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). These functions are authorized by the Commercial Space Launch Act (P.L. 98-575), as amended (51 U.S.C. Chapter 509).
In order to avoid holding back the development of the commercial space industry, the FAA was initially prohibited from regulating the health and safety requirements of humans aboard commercial spacecraft until 2012. However, this prohibition of regulation has been revised multiple times and has most recently been extended to October 1, 2023.
As such, existing medical guidelines will need to be updated and followed for commercial spaceflight in order to ensure the safety and autonomy of passengers. The challenge will be in issuing medical recommendations for spaceflight that provide an acceptable standard of safety for passengers while also protecting their autonomy, and not overloading a rising industry with over-regulation.
The future of commercial spaceflight
With numerous advancements in the field of aerospace over the last decade, we are witnessing an age of transition. An age in which human spaceflight is becoming more accessible to the public. There is no doubt that further research, innovation, and protocols will be needed to ensure success. However, future missions and aerospace developments will continue to pave the way to a reliable, safe, and cost-effective means to explore space.
The submission by the ad astra vita project, and our Founder Dr Rowena Christiansen’s appearance before the Inquiry to advocate for the advancement of aero/space medicine are both mentioned in the Report: (pp.81-86, Recommendation 20).
Introducing our new special guest editor, Philip Vukovic – BSc (Melb). Many thanks to Philip for this wonderful introductory piece for anyone who is curious about the effects of spaceflight on humans.
As we continue to embark on our journey through the austere and challenging environments of space, further research in space medicine and life sciences will become even more important for mission success.
Understanding some of the medical and physiological problems associated with spaceflight will provide the backbone through which we can continue to develop effective means to support the survival, health and performance of astronauts and commercial crew members.
What are the “space life sciences”?
As defined by NASA, the space life sciences study interactions between living organisms and characteristics of the space environment. These studies specifically address the structure and function of living organisms in space and interdependent relationships of organisms with each other and/or the space environment while also touching on the origin, evolution and potential for extraterrestrial life.
Spaceflight results in many medical and physiological effects on the human body. Many such effects on the human body result due to microgravity, which refers to the near weightlessness environment encountered in space.
As stated by Kunihiko Tanaka et al. (2017), exposure to microgravity can result in changes in the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and vestibular systems. Astronauts who are exposed to such environments immediately begin to experience bone loss, which raises concerns about fracture risk and increased long-term risk of osteoporosis. The vestibular system, which helps to maintain balance and provide information about body position, is impacted by microgravity. Once astronauts return to Earth, they are often supported when emerging from the capsule as they may experience problems standing and walking due to microgravity’s effects on the vestibular system.
Radiation is one of the most menacing and pressing concerns associated with long-duration spaceflight. The risks associated with radiation in spaceflight pose many problems and influence the planning, execution and operational decisions of missions.
Jeffery C. Chancellor et al. (2014) state that exposure to space radiation exacerbates the risk of cancer and increases the likelihood of experiencing central nervous system problems. Space radiation can also narrow arteries and damage the heart, ultimately resulting in cardiovascular disease. On a cellular level, the primary means through which radiation poses a problem, is by damaging DNA. Such effects on DNA may cause several changes to genes, which can potentially lead to cancer.
Isolation and Confinement
Confinement to a small space, with a small group of individuals, over long periods of time will inevitably result in problems. With missions to Mars being in discussion, crews will need to be carefully chosen, trained and supported in order to safely succeed in the 480-million-kilometre journey to Mars and back.
Pagel and Choukèr (2016) highlighted the numerous harmful effects that the human body experiences when subjected to long-periods of isolation and confinement. Various long duration isolation and confinement analogue studies have shown that individuals may experience symptoms of depression, a reduction in positive emotion ratings and cognitive impairment. Quality of sleep can also be significantly affected, posing serious problems to the health of astronauts and to the timely and successful completion of daily space tasks.
The frontiers of space medicine
Whilst a plethora of research and literature exists regarding space medicine, further research is necessary to ensure safe manned space explorations. Travelling the cosmos and conducting interplanetary missions will be a bold endeavour, but as former US President John F Kennedy famously proclaimed, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
Last chance to register FREE for ASBX 2021: The Australian Space Biology x Health Summit (16-19 November, hosted online), the world’s largest conference dedicated to the human element of space exploration. Our international cohort of speakers includes leaders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, policymakers, scientists, researchers, physicians, lawyers, astronauts, and academics across a wide range of topics related to space biology and health, the space economy and space technologies, and STEAM education.
All presentations will be pre-recorded so registrants can view them at their leisure on YouTube, regardless of their time zone, and LIVE panel sessions will be hosted in both the United States and Australia. REGISTER via the ASBX 2021 website link. See you there!
Don’t forget to join our LIVE discussion panels both in Australia and in the United States, and check out our STEAM competitions and scholarships on offer: https://www.asbx.com.au/competition.
SPONSORS, small or large, are welcome to support the Christmas ‘space toys’ drive for sick children in hospital and STEAM education initiatives. For more information visit: https://www.asbx.com.au/sponsors.
ASBX 2021 – the 3rd Australian Space Biology x Health Summit,will be held from 16-19 November, 2021.
It will be free, presented virtually, and registrants will have access to both the pre-recorded presentations by a stellar local and international line-up of speakers, and the daily live panel discussion sessions. For those in other time zones, you will be able to listen to the presentations on YouTube at a time that suits you.
STEAM COMPETITION: ABSX2021 is running a STEAM program for students (of all ages) and young researchers, including three themed competitions, and some scholarships on offer from MMAARS – Mars-Moon Astronautics Academy and Research Sciences. Visit the ASBX Competitions page via the attached QR code below.
REGISTER via the ASBX 2021 website (or the attached QR code). The most recent newsletter is here. You can subscribe to newsletters and view the archive via links on the top left of the page.
SPONSORS, small or large, are welcome to support the Christmas ‘space toys’ drive for sick children in hospital and STEAM education initiatives. For more information visit the Sponsors page.
SPEAKER INVITATION: The good news is that since ASBX2021 is virtual with pre-recorded presentations, we are still accepting speakers until the end of the month. Videos will need to be submitted by November 1st so we have time to process them all and upload them to YouTube. This is the speaker invitation (or use the attached QR code) and the speaker Google Form. We are also asking people kindly to send in a suitable headshot and a short bio (150 words max), and use this introductory slide (as personalised) for their talks.
Please regard this as your personal invitation to register and attend this year’s exciting event.