A Health Medical Facility could make the difference between a space mission's success or failure.
Or, more importantly, it could mean life or death for astronauts, Dr. Percival D. McCormack, the current manager of operational medicine for the space shuttle program, said Friday at the University of Utah.An HMF is not a hospital, he explained, but rather is a facility similar to a small emergency room, dedicated to clinical medicine. Its emphasis would be on prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
He predicted that a base would be set up on the moon in the lifetimes of the undergraduates in the audience and that by the year 2025 someone will have been to Mars. And HMFs will play an integral part in the future of space travel.
McCormack spoke of the physiological and biological changes that take place in space and how an HMF could help with those changes.
The HMF would be capable of handling many inflight illnesses including sprains, headaches, appendicitis and the bends, as well as life-threatening accidents and traumas.
Motion sickness and light-headedness are the two conditions most commonly associated with space travel. There are others that are more serious and every bit as common. There are bone mineral loss (similar to osteoporosis), blood pressure changes, muscle atrophy and radiation damage to DNA.
McCormack said there are counter measures to such risks. He said exercise on a nordic track or treadmill is extremely helpful. A good diet is also important, along with electrolyte supplements. And extensive training prior to the flight is vital.
Still, motion sickness is a major concern for astronauts, and McCormack says little progress has been made in that area. He said there is a 50 percent incidence of motion sickness in space crews.
"Vomiting in space is very unpleasant and you're very unpopular with the rest of the crew," said McCormack.
The problem of waste management is also unsatisfactory. "No crewman is going to spend 90 days on a space station if they don't improve the potty," he said.
McCormack has held many positions in the engineering science, mathematical physics and medical science areas, including the senior biomedical engineer in the Office of the Space Station at NASA. He also was associated with the U.'s bio-engineering department and was on the research staff at LDS Hospital.