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GUEST EDITORIAL
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 67  |  Issue : 8  |  Page : 172--173

Fallout of space technology for neurosciences on earth

Russell J Andrews 
 Nanotechnology and Smart Systems, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, USA

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Russell J Andrews
Advisor, Nanotechnology and Smart Systems, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA
USA




How to cite this article:
Andrews RJ. Fallout of space technology for neurosciences on earth.Neurol India 2019;67:172-173


How to cite this URL:
Andrews RJ. Fallout of space technology for neurosciences on earth. Neurol India [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Aug 6 ];67:172-173
Available from: http://www.neurologyindia.com/text.asp?2019/67/8/172/259122


Full Text

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Four hundred years ago, Galileo Galilei was placed under house arrest for challenging the dogma that Earth was the center of the Solar System (geocentrism). He opined that the Sun was the center of the Solar System (heliocentrism). Forty-eight years ago, the Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became the first person to reach the border between Earth and Space. Eight years later, the American astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, walked on the Moon. A fourth nation—India—will soon join the “League of Space Nations” in the blink of a celestial eye, 30 months from now. The Palauans—inhabitants of Micronesian islands in the Western Pacific—are quite philosophical. They have seen island invaders come and go—Spanish, Japanese and Americans, among others. In Palauan lore, the Moon is the province of the village of Melekeok. Thus, when the chief of Melekeok learnt of the 1969 “Moon walk” —he merely replied: “Now the Americans owe us rent. The 'Business of Space' had already begun 40 years ago!”

The “Neuroscience of Space” has an equally long history. Space Technology has had fallout benefitting Earth in myriad ways as well—one needs only to peruse the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Spinoff 2018 to appreciate nearly 50 major applications of Space Technology to the fields of Health and Medicine, Transportation, Public Safety, Consumer Goods, Energy and Environment, Information Technology, and Industrial Productivity.[1]

This Neurology India Supplement—” Extraterrestrial Neurosciences”—features papers from a truly expert international group of contributors. From cognitive and mental health disorders to cardiovascular, immunological, musculoskeletal, ocular, and vestibular effects, the information gained under microgravity, and long duration spaceflight complements research findings here on Earth. The risks and challenges of space flight (especially long duration space flight such as the anticipated three-year voyage to Mars and back) are well documented—from radiation and lack of real-time communication with Earth, to psychosocial effects.

The Editor of this Special Supplement is to be congratulated not only for bringing together this impressive collection of papers, but also his foresight, in anticipating many of the issues documented in this Supplement in a recent publication.[2] Like Galileo—but fortunately not under house arrest—he exemplifies Einstein's definition of intelligence: “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

It is not surprising that the need for sophisticated diagnostics and therapeutics for health care during space travel, will have benefits for health care on Earth. NASA supports projects ranging from nanotechniques for inexpensive, paper-based, point-of-care blood tests, to microsensors for real-time tumor diagnosis, to nanoelectrodes for the brain-machine interface (BMI); the European Space Agency (ESA) and others are doing likewise. The public is receiving a “shot in the arm” from those who argue that climate change will make Earth uninhabitable within the next century. The prudent potential SpaceX traveler would do well to digest the information in this Neurology India Supplement: it may become part of “informed consent” for space travel, given the myriad of health risks posed by venturing beyond Earth's protective atmosphere and gravitational influence. Being a savvy—if somewhat unpredictable—businessman, Elon Musk must be thinking about the return voyage of SpaceX from Mars after dropping off all those people escaping Earth as the climate deteriorates (or because they tire of holidays at the usual terra firma resorts). In order to preserve the Martian landscape, the SpaceX return voyages to Earth might be loaded with trash generated on Mars—to be disposed of on Earth. Five hundred years—and Earth may have gone from geocentrism to heliocentrism to Solar System garbage dump. Let us hope that we will come up with “out of this world” solutions to avoid such an unseemly outcome. Better understanding of the nervous system in both health and disease, and in both earthly and celestial environments—as presented in this Neurology India Supplement—is an excellent place to start!

References

1NASA Technology Transfer Program. Spinoff 2018. NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC: Space Technology Mission Directorate; 2018. p. 182. Available from: https://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2018/pdf/2018_Brochure_web.pdf. [Last accessed on 2019 May 15].
2Ganapathy K, da Rosa M, Russomano T. Neurological changes in outer space. Neurol India 2019;67:37-43.