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Guests: Linda Plush and Dr. John Jurist; Topics: Advanced human factors for human spaceflight with a focus on the human senses and spaceflight.
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We welcomed back both Linda Plush and Dr. John Jurist for this advanced human factors medical issue discussion for human spaceflight. As you will hear, this conversation came about as a result of Dr. Jurist working on his aerospace medical book for engineers and the chapter that Lina submitted for publication in the book focusing on the human senses in spaceflight. Note that the discussion covered two hours two minutes with a break devoted to thanking and reading our sponsor messages. In addition, while I am unable to upload Linda's chapter to the blog at this time, I was permitted to provide you with the summary points of her excellent chapter. You will find those points in my blog comments for this program's blog.
We started the program with Dr. Jurist introducing us to his project, why he wants to write the book in question and the contribution to the book by Ms. Plush regarding human senses in space. At several times during the discussion, you will hear me talk about how the senses have not been properly explored on TSS human factors programs as well as other formats, plus some of the concerns and issues Linda brought to our attention were unknown to me. For example, I was totally unaware of gaze stabilization vision issues plus proprioceptive illusions such as floors moving up and down with crew members as they hopped around. When we come to these subjects, listen up as the issues are real and may need mitigation for safer human spaceflight.
After the Dr. Jurist introduction, I asked questions relating to vision problems. John talked about lenses and diopters, I asked him about prisms and some other issues, then we turned to Linda continuing with our vision conversation. Linda broke the vision issues down into several distinct categories so pay attention to what she talked about. I suspect that many of you, like me, learned about some of these issues for the first time during Linda's presentation. By the way, I created many of the key words for this program based on Linda's topics in her chapter so if you check out the key words, you will know most of the topics and areas discussed for today.
As you will hear, there are multiple vision issues regarding human spaceflight. In addition, you will hear Linda mention many times that nobody was working on many of the problems right now. John said many times over during our conversation that if we wanted HSF to unfold on the timelines talked about re the Artemis program, by SpaceX, or others, that we needed to working the problem NOW. Dr. Jurist did not see show stoppers and he felt the challenges could be met with resolutions but one has to start and then work the problem(s).
Taste was another sense that was discussed in detail. Listen to what Linda said about our sense of taste and the importance of it for spaceflight. While discussing the taste sense, Marshall called (our only caller for the show) to talk about food texture, i.e., how it might feel. Marshall related this to the sense of taste. Marshall, Linda, and John had quite the mini-discussion regarding taste, food, fluid shifts, sinuses, and more. Marshall brought up touch so while talking about it, Linda brought up the issue of spacesuit gloves, the glove box, and small hands. She said this was a particular issue for women and smaller astronauts. Don't miss what she had to say about this issue. Also note how many women have flown to space as Linda provided us with the stats on this a few minutes earlier. She said that as of April this year, there has been just 63 women who had flown in space. Again, don't miss all the stats Linda gave us regarding humans in space through April of this year.
I asked Linda about astronauts having illusions which Linda identified as proprioception issues. Linda described the illusions, who gets them and said that the crew could be trained to deal with the problem. We jumped around on topics so the illusion discussion took us to astronauts seeing light flashes in their eyes. This was thought to be from cosmic rays charged particles,. Listen to what both Linda and John had to say about this event, when it happens and what the risks might be from encountering this effect.
Hearing was next on the discussion table. Here, Linda talked about the noise level from the machinery, both in the work space and in the sleeping areas. One of the strategies she said that was being pursued by spacecraft designers and engineers was to separate the sleeping area from the noisy equipment. She talked about other design changes and machinery sound insulation to lower the noise. Linda talked about the impact on crew with the constant high sound level. Don't miss what she said about noise and high sound levels in spacecraft.
Both John and Linda talked about radiation and potential shielding methods. We took an email question from Paul who wanted to shift the discussion from the transportation to and from the Moon or Mars to actually being on the surface of either celestial body. He wanted to know about mitigating surface stay risk factors. Don't miss what was said about this part of human spaceflight. John then pointed out that many of the transportation issues to Mars were mitigated by using nuclear thermal propulsion which was not yet available. We then went to break (sponsor messages) and picked the discussion back up for the second half of the program.
In Part 2, we led with the topic of pregnancy, child birth and children in space. I pointed out the company in The Netherlands wanting to send a pregnant woman t space to be the first one to give birth in space. The company, SpaceLife Origin, wanted to do this in the 2020-2024 time line. In getting the URL for this website for this summary this morning following the discussion with John and Linda, I note that all SpaceLife Origin plans have been suspended. This must have happened overnight because I can't even access the news article that I used for the program last night. Here is the SpaceLife Origin official announcement: https://spacelifeorigin.com/en. If you Google for SpaceLife Origin, there are lots of articles pointing out the stupidity of this plan which of course is what Linda, John, and I talked about during the show. While this particular plan is as they say kaput, do note what John and Linda talked about regarding pregnancy, fetal position, the role of gravity, blood loss and more regarding terrestrial pregnancy. Both said they would be totally unknown and may uncontrollable issues for pregnancy in space. We did talk about how to do this type of research here on space or take the risk and do it real time in space. Our guests suggested animal experimentation but I pointed out that it would probably be easier to permit a nuclear power plant than doing the type of animal experiments needed to shed light on pregnancy and delivery related issues in space. The company plan for SpaceLife Origin was doomed to fail and as I pointed out last night, I doubted they could ever get a ride to space let alone predict when to launch in the 36 hour window they were allowing for delivery. Still, I can't help but wonder what would have happened if they had embarked on a crowd funding program and just how much money they could have raised from true believers in the push toward space settlement. For my book, that would have been a grand experiment! By the way, our guests raised many ethical issues about the company plans as well, plus ethical concerns on animal experimentation.
Nearing the end of the program, Linda pointed out some issues and concerns with suborbital flight, i.e. the Virgin Galactic model. Typically we don't hear about many human factor concerns for suborbital flight but Linda focused our attention on some risk areas, mostly because of the unknown at this time. Don't miss the suborbital issues discussion. Let us know what you think by posting on the blog. One thing Linda talked about was that so far those having gone to space have been military or astronauts in top or near top physical condition. She has concerns about what would happen with civilians, especially older folks who could more easily afford the flight but probably have medical issues of their own.
As the program was ending, we took an email from Carl asking about negativity in the assessment and discussion for the show as opposed to space enthusiasts not holding onto the problems and just doing it to get the job done. We talked about this in the remaining minutes of the program. Both John and Linda had much to say regarding the question posed by Carl. I then opened up with a somewhat lengthy but familiar Dr. Space rant about commercial companies dismissing what Linda wrote about and discussed during our program. What might happen in case of an accident or worse for regulation or the shutting down of the industry might be averted with proactive actions on the part of the private space companies. John chimed in with comments supporting my general rant theme. As I said during my short rant, the issues Linda wrote about and that we discussed are not classified or top secret. Should an accident happen, in the type of law suit and regulatory prone climate we live in, you can bet there will be those doing all they can to show that the issues we talked about were dismissed or ignored. Were that to happen and were the opposition to prevail, it could be very bad for developing space tourism or commercial human spaceflight. I said that in m opinion, the privates need to take these issues seriously and show they are concerned and working to mitigate them or engineer around them as much as possible. I don't think resolutions need be complete and in place but I do think that these and other human factor issues cannot be ignored. Once again, let us know what you think on the issue raised by Carl and this important end of program last minute discussion.
Before we signed off, Linda added another issue of concern relating to vision, glare. We spent a few minutes talking about the glare problem from a space perspective. Don't miss what Linda and John both had to say about glare and why it is a human factor issue in space. Also, note why it could be an important factor to mitigate for the space tourism industry.
Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show. You can reach both Linda Plush and Dr. John Jurist through me.