Astronauts face even harsher extreme environments than those flying high performance jet aircraft. The medical and physiological consequences of the environment of outer space on the human body cannot be understated. For this reason and many others, NASA and other space organizations employ physicians and other health professionals to care for their astronauts and also conduct continued research on various topics involving humans in space.
One significant difference between Space Medicine and the other medical disciplines discussed on Go Flight Medicine is the nature of chronic exposure of extreme environments encountered by astronauts and cosmonauts. Presently, there are those who reside on the International Space Station for months. As space exploration increases in scope and private organizations get involved, we will likely see longer stays in outer space. Loss of bone density, fluid shifts, and circadian rhythm disturbaces are only a handful of physiologic responses that medical professionals already know affect those residing in zero gravity environments for extended periods. The challenge for space medicine docs will be to further the science in this area and then apply it clinically to those venturing into space.