Astronaut Health & Performance
The challenges of Human Spaceflight remain of great concern, and need to be managed before being able to venture beyond Earth’s magnetosphere. The effects of microgravity on the cardiovascular system, central nervous system, bone mechanics, myology, and the vestibular system are not yet completely understood. Current available countermeasures are not sufficient to assure that astronauts will be able to adequately perform the necessary tasks upon landing on Mars after prolonged exposure to microgravity. Even extended duration exposures to 1/6th g on the Moon are of concern. Other important factors to consider are the effects of exposure to solar radiation including heavy ions that are present in galactic cosmic rays. Determining the time course and magnitude of harmful and potentially life-threatening effects is of utmost importance to inform and prioritize countermeasure development.
Space Transportation Systems
Although we have been able to send rovers and other functionally smart spacecraft to the edge of our solar system, human spaceflight beyond LEO comes with added difficulties that we have yet to fully resolve. This undertaking requires a foundational understanding of the requirements for Deep Space Transportation Systems. That includes designing spacecraft that can accommodate efficient propulsion systems for long duration space travel, as well as choosing materials capable of protecting all living beings aboard the vehicle from galactic cosmic rays and solar radiation. This begins with defining the phases of interplanetary deep space mission operations, consolidating state-of-the-art protective materials for extreme environments, assessing current energy/power generation systems, and finally understanding which propulsion systems could be most efficient for this endeavor.
According to the AIAA Space Architecture Technical Committee, Space Architecture “encompasses architectural design of living and working environments in space related facilities, habitats, and vehicles”. To sustain future deep space missions, an understanding of the requirements for habitation systems both during long-duration space travel and upon landing on different celestial bodies is of utmost importance in order to develop effective solutions. Reducing dependencies on Earth for supplies will be crucial as we venture farther within our solar system. This is essential in maximising efficiency and supporting mission objectives. Additionally, it is important to recognise the significance of robust monitoring and communication systems within the facility in increasing safety and performance of astronauts.