SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has been discussing the possibility of a manned flight to Mars as soon as ten years from now.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA which has an estimated landing date for a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s, has created STEM classroom activities that get kids thinking about how to safely land astronauts on Mars. The Mars Rover, Curiosity, serves as a good model because of its larger size and successful landing on Mars in 2012. It deployed parachutes and a skycrane to slow down the rover. Our own STEM Aerospace Engineering and Robotics programs in Raleigh and Durham featured NASA Solar System Ambassador Marc Fusco making a real world connection for kids.
The impending manned mission lead to an important question – What are some aerospace and biomedical engineering techniques to overcome the challenges to the health of astronauts?
We also need to look at potential medical issues that can become more serious and likely to arise the longer crew members are away from Earth. Some of the health issues that may arise include those associated with dental care, skin disorders, and emergency wound closure. Research developments include the following: no drill dental care, biofilm eradication, noninvasive treatment for skin disorders, and emergency wound closure.
These technologies can then be used in other areas such as hospitals, industry, military submarines and battlefields, and in isolated areas.
Developing successful new technology is crucial since the human immune system is altered or weakened under spaceflight conditions. The Biomedical Engineering for Exploration Space Technology (BEEST) developed a quick method for rapid wound closure. They apply a protein paste to the wound and seal it using specific radio frequencies.
Also, concerning dental care, the BEEST team has completed two small animal studies to validate the feasibility of treating caries using microwave technology without inducing any ill effects on pulp tissue and bone with 30 and 60 second exposures.
As the Mars exploration date approaches (possibly, sooner than in the 2030s), let us hope that our aerospace and biomedical engineering continues to approach its capacity to help those on this manned mission.