Space.com is reporting that a new article in the British Medical Journal is pointing out that there is no protocol for medical requirements for space tourists and that further research is needed to establish those requirements.
How one is judged to be healthy enough for space travel
The Space.com article suggests that there is a dilemma facing space tourism companies concerning whether their passengers are fit to fly in space. If the requirements are made too stringent, then the market for private space travelers will be greatly restricted. On the other hand, if the requirements are too lax, then the possibility of injury on a space flight, with the subsequent legal and medical problems, becomes very real.
NASA's requirements very strict
According to NASA, aside from the educational and work experience requirements, there are some very strict medical qualifications for becoming an astronaut. Pilot astronauts are required to have 20/100 uncorrected visual acuity that is correctable to 20/20. They must have a blood pressure of 140/90 in the sitting position. They must be between 62 and 85 inches high. They must pass a NASA space physical which is similar to a flight physical. The requirements for a mission specialist are slightly less stringent, with
Space tourism medical exams
Thus far space tourists who have gone for stays on the International Space Station have done so through the auspices of Space Adventures and the Russian Space Agency. The space tourists, who have ridden to the ISS on the Soyuz spacecraft, are required to pass a physical conducted by the Russians.
Differing requirements for different space flights
Various space tourism concepts involve different types of space flight. Virgin Galactic, for example, envisions short, suborbital jaunts, suggesting that the medical requirements for such fights will not be very strict. On the other end of the spectrum, Golden Spike is developing private space flights to the lunar surface, replicated in effect the Apollo moon missions. This suggests far more stringent medical requirements for future, private moon travelers.
More research needed
According to Space.com, the British Medical Journal piece stopped short of suggesting what the medical requirements should be for future space tourists. The piece did suggest, with the prospect of a space tourism industry drawing ever closer, that more research is needed and that protocols need to be in place sooner rather than later. There is already detailed knowledge of how space flight affects the human body, thanks to decades of research by NASA and the Russians.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard
- Science, Social Science, & Humanities
- Space & Astronomy
- space tourists