The biomedical challenges of space flight

Annu Rev Med. 2003;54:245-56. doi: 10.1146/ Epub 2001 Dec 4.


Space medicine has evolved considerably through past U.S. missions. It has been proven that humans can live and work in space for long durations and that humans are integral to mission success. The space medicine program of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) looks toward future long-duration missions. Its goal is to overcome the biomedical challenges associated with maintaining the safety, health, and optimum performance of astronauts and cosmonauts. This program investigates the health effects of adaptation to microgravity: the nature of their pathologies, the effects of microgravity on pathophysiology, and the alterations in pharmacodynamics and treatment. A critical capability in performing research is the monitoring of the health of all astronauts and of the spacecraft environment. These data support the evidence-based approach to space medicine, incorporating past studies of microgravity-related conditions and their terrestrial counterparts. This comprehensive approach will enable safe and effective exploration beyond low Earth orbit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Aerospace Medicine / trends
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Space Flight / trends*
  • Space Motion Sickness / physiopathology*
  • Spacecraft
  • Weightlessness*