The Consequences Of Musculoskeletal Deconditioning And Injury: Martian Medicine En-Route And On Site

Dr Rob Hart

Curtin University of technology

--- Abstract - Full Paper - Profile ---

Abstract: Musculoskeletal deconditioning is a well-recognized, if not well-understood, consequence of space flight. Musculoskeletal integrity is a requirement for optimal crew performance, and in turn for successful mission completion. The risk of musculoskeletal compromise is significantly higher in space than in analogue terrestrial environments, and it is likely that adaptation to reduced (Martian) gravity will have deleterious effects that are as yet ill defined. The Mars Gravity Biosatellite project will be of great assistance in defining some of the physiological aspects of the changes. The nature of such changes is likely to be multifactorial, including alterations in bone and muscle architecture, vascularity, efficacy of the immune response, the likelihood of infection, and radiation-mediated damage, which may potentially lead to neoplasia (including benign and malignant tumourogenesis). These changes equate to an increased risk of injury, and an associated decrement of personal and crew performance. Whilst the physiological changes are well discussed in the literature, there remains a paucity of work discussing the impact of such events on a mission to Mars. On such a mission, these physiological challenges fall into two distinct phases; those associated with microgravity during the journey to and from the planet, and those associated with the reduced gravity of Mars itself. These two mission phases will be marked by differing crew activities, levels of risk, support facilities and medical infrastructure. The impact of injury will similarly have differing sequelae, depending on the mission phase during which the injury is sustained.

PROFILE: Dr Rob Hart qualified as a radiographer at Curtin University of Technology. With five years' clinical experience at Royal Perth Hospital he specializes in trauma and emergency radiography. Dr Hart undertook postdoctoral training at the Department of Surgery and Molecular Oncology at the University of Dundee in Scotland for which he developed a new technique using ultrasound to quantify the changes in tissue stiffness associated with breast cancer. In 2001 he took up the position of Research Coordinator at the Department of Medical Imaging Science at Curtin. With colleagues from NASA's Johnson Space Centre (JSC), he wrote the first paper discussing medical imaging on the International Space Station (Digital radiography in Space, Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine). He now serves as a subject matter expert with the Medical Informatics and Health Care Systems (Advanced Projects) team at JSC, and holds editorial review board membership of Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine and the Journal of Biomechanics.