How space tech can help the world fight the pandemic




Michael Strahan, former football star and host of "Good Morning America," will be taking off with a crew of five other passengers on Dec. 9, amidst a global pandemic and rising cases of the new omicron variant.

Strahan won't be the first civilian in space. In September, the Inspiration4 launch sent four civilians (a physician's assistant, an aerospace worker, a professor and a billionaire) into orbit. In October, William Shatner became the oldest person to go into space, at the age of 90.

Civilian spaceflight launches have had a shining spotlight in a time when COVID devastated regions all over the globe. Some, like Prince William, have even criticized the obsession on spaceflight, saying billionaires and companies should focus more on addressing issues closer to Earth.

But could technology developed for space help us battle the pandemic?

An article released in September in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Medicine investigated how space-based technologies could be used to help manage and prevent pandemics.

How much a seat into space costs: William Shatner went to space. Here's how much it would cost you.

Telemedicine was 'developed by space agencies'

When astronauts are in space, for example, their medical information is meticulously tracked, the paper says.

In fact, astronauts often run medical experiments in space to help researchers better understand how the human body reacts to the properties of space, according to Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA.

For the SpaceX Inspiration4 launch, McAlister said, civilians conducted a series of experiments, such as drawing blood in space, and shared the data with researchers on Earth.

"Telemedicine was actually developed by space agencies as well in order to provide care, monitor the care of astronauts," says Dr. Farhan Asrar, a medical doctor and global faculty member at the International Space University. Asrar was a contributor to the Nature Medicine article.

Similarly, Asrar points out, telemedicine can be used to monitor and assess COVID patients remotely without the risk of infecting healthcare workers.

Asrar says that wearable technology has already been used by Canadian astronauts to monitor several key parameters of health, such as blood pressure, temperature, breathing rate and heart rate, all of which were streamed hundreds of miles from Earth aboard the International Space Station.

These wearable devices can be used by healthcare workers to detect early on whether they are developing and spreading symptoms, the paper suggests.

More: NASA launches spacecraft to test asteroid defense concept

Using satellite imagery to monitor progression

Satellite imagery could contribute to pandemic planning and the distribution of vaccines against COVID-19, according to the paper.

Satellites launched into space have already helped plot disease transmission during the Ebola outbreak, the paper points out. In the fight against polio, satellite images found marginalized and previously unknown villages in Nigeria, assisting with eradication efforts.

"There are several parameters which you can monitor using satellites," Asrar says. "We can monitor temperatures that are ideal for these infectious conditions so that if an outbreak is occurring, you can use this technology to monitor the progression."

Asrar cites using satellite monitoring on mosquito populations as a potential way to predict outbreaks of malaria.

Isolation and developing techniques to preserve mental health

One more thing we can learn from astronauts is the science of managing isolation, the paper says.

Astronauts often have to be in space for days or months on end, with little or no contact with their loved ones. In a similar sense, social distancing guidelines have prevented people from gathering and made those with limited technological resources even more isolated, the paper points out.

In another article published in Nature in May of 2020, astronauts shared ways that they dealt with isolation in space, including having a carefully managed daily routine and structuring work around an inspiring mission.

Both research papers suggest that by understanding how astronauts cope with isolation, we can develop better techniques for preserving our mental health during the pandemic.

Feel like you're surviving, not thriving: Join us at Keeping it Together, a newsletter about wellness and living life amid COVID-19.

Follow Michelle Shen on Twitter @michelle_shen10

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Understanding how space tech can help the world fight COVID pandemic

COMMENTS

More Related News

North Korea lifts mask mandate after Covid
North Korea lifts mask mandate after Covid 'victory'
  • World
  • 2022-08-13 02:40:33Z

North Korea has lifted a mask mandate and eased other virus restrictions, state media said Saturday, days after leader Kim Jong Un declared "victory" over...

N.Korea lifts mask mandate, distancing rules after declaring COVID victory
N.Korea lifts mask mandate, distancing rules after declaring COVID victory
  • US
  • 2022-08-12 22:44:50Z

North Korea has dropped a face mask mandate and other social distancing rules as leader Kim Jong Un declared victory over COVID-19 this week, state media...

Parts of China
Parts of China's Hainan extend COVID lockdown, Lhasa in Tibet tightens curbs

A few cities in China's tourism hub Hainan extended lockdowns on Friday, with some of the measures expected to last through the weekend, while Lhasa in Tibet...

Long COVID risk up for unvaccinated children; at-home antibody test shows promise
Long COVID risk up for unvaccinated children; at-home antibody test shows promise
  • US
  • 2022-08-11 20:45:49Z

A small study is adding to evidence that children can develop long COVID-19 even if the virus did not make them seriously ill. Researchers in Texas who...

Want to be sure you don
Want to be sure you don't have COVID? FDA now says you'll need to pass 3 home tests

The FDA now recommends taking 3 home tests over 5 days to be more confident you don't have COVID, especially if you fear you've been exposed.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Economy