When people on Earth experience an illness or an injury, medical care is usually only a short drive away. However, when a crewmember on a mission becomes ill, injured, or otherwise incapacitated due to a health problem, dropping by a clinic or hospital is out of the question. For that reason, it is necessary for crewmembers to be capable of helping to diagnose problems and perform both basic and advanced medical procedures.
In addition to the challenges posed by a lack of access to trained medical personnel, exploration medical capability is also limited by the amount of room and power that can be dedicated to medical equipment during space flight. HRP researchers and engineers are developing advanced diagnostic devices and remote communication protocols that can help crewmembers detect and treat health issues mid-flight and interact with trained medical personnel on the ground. Computerized diagnostic guides and decision-making protocols will also figure significantly in future solutions.
As long-duration space flight and habitation become part of future missions, exploration medical capabilities will need to be expanded to better meet the health care needs of crewmembers that may remain in space for months or even years at a time. Because crewmembers on future long-duration space flights will need to be able to perform autonomous medical care, ongoing research efforts have focused on developing new technologies that will facilitate rapid and accurate diagnoses while requiring little medical expertise and taking up a minimum of space.