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Health in Space

I don’t know of any job in the world that has a higher medical requirement than to go be a space station crew member.

I don’t know of any job in the world that has a higher medical requirement than to go be a space station crew member.  Almost every person that applies to go be a space station crew member is eliminated medically.  Part of it is, you know, just maintaining your own fitness, part of it is just size, if you’re too big or too small you can’t fit in the Soyuz or in the space walking suit, but a lot of it is just congenital stuff, wrong eye, wrong heart, wrong shoulders, wrong whatever, any small little problem, chemical imbalance, something, will preclude you from going because the medical facilities on the station are kind of primitive and we don’t want to have to do a medical abort.

So we work really hard choosing crew initially; that’s the best way to keep people healthy, choose super healthy people and monitor them very closely throughout all of their training to make sure we really understand their medical state and then we’re all trained on board to take care of each other, at least to emergency medical technician level if you don’t have an actual doctor as part of your crew, and so I took a bunch of medical training, we called it field medical training. I could do basic suturing, I could remove an appendix, I could intubate, I could re-inflate a lung, do a tracheotomy, put in an intravenous, you know, all the standard basic stuff. I worked in the burn ward, worked in the ambo, worked with cadavers and then I actually worked in emergency in Houston and as people came in, sewed ‘em up and stapled ‘em up, and poor unsuspecting Houston public got me as their medical technician, but it was really good hands on practical experience just in case in the time that we are in orbit someone took sick. Fortunately in our time no one got seriously sick, just minor stuff, taking care of each other, but when you’re a long way from home  and medical facilities are really primitive, it’s good not only to have healthy people but to have trained and competent people and we try to do both.