Space Medicine: Inspiring a new generation of physicians

Postgrad Med J. 2022 Jul 20;postgradmedj-2022-141875. doi: 10.1136/pmj-2022-141875. Online ahead of print.


Space medicine is critical in enabling safe human exploration of space. The discipline focuses on supporting human survival, health, and performance in the austere environment of space. It is set to grow ever more important as significant transitions in the standard of space operations in the suborbital, low earth orbit (LEO) and beyond LEO domains will take place in the coming years. NASA along with their international and commercial partners have committed to returning to the Moon through the Artemis missions in this decade with the aim of achieving a permanent sustainable human presence on the lunar surface. Additionally, the development of reusable rockets is set to increase the number and frequency of humans going to space by making space travel more accessible. Commercial spaceflight and missions beyond LEO present many new challenges which space medicine physicians and researchers will need to address. Space medicine operates at the frontier of exploration, engineering, science and medicine. Aviation and Space Medicine (ASM) is the latest specialty to be recognised by the Royal College of Physicians and the General Medical Council in the UK. In this paper, we provide an introduction to space medicine, review the effects of spaceflight on human physiology and health along with countermeasures, medical and surgical issues in space, the varied roles of the ASM physician, challenges to UK space medicine practice and related research, and finally we explore the current representation of space medicine within the undergraduate curriculum.