BOX 1–2 What Is Space Medicine in Reference to Developing a Vision and Strategy for Astronaut Health?

For the purpose of the present study the committee has considered space medicine to be a developing area of health care that has roots in aerospace medicine but that is focused on the health of individuals so that they can perform in and return in good health from increasingly distant extreme space environments, for example, from short-duration space capsule flights, space shuttle flights, missions to the Moon, long-term Earth-orbiting space station missions, and in the next stages, exploration-class missions beyond Earth orbit, including missions involving planetary colonization.

This view of space medicine is consistent with NASA’s, in which operational space medicine is defined as “a distinct discipline of medicine focused on the unique challenges of human spaceflight and the medical risk management of associated hazards” (from the Mission Statement of the Medical Operations Branch, Johnson Space Center, 2000).

Presently, the specialty of aerospace medicine includes aviation medicine and space medicine. There are approved residency programs as well as recognition by all regulatory agencies and the American Medical Association. The Aerospace Medical Association is the established professional home providing scientific meetings as well as a monthly specialty journal (Aviation Space Environmental Medicine) for all practitioners and scientists whether in aviation or space medicine.

The understanding and definition of space medicine will change as space travel and medicine change. Those changes must continually be kept in mind as visions and strategies for space medicine and astronaut health and safety evolve.

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