The days of doctors making house calls may seem like ancient history for most patients in North America, but in October, three astronauts and a Canadian doctor will test the latest concepts in long-distance house calls using a unique underwater laboratory.
The ability to conduct long-distance health care such as telemonitoring and telerobotic surgery could be key to maintaining the wellness of future spacefarers and responding to medical emergencies on the International Space Station, the moon or Mars. Techniques will be tested on a simulated patient during the upcoming seventh mission of the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project.
Canadian Astronaut Dave Williams will lead a crew on the 10-day undersea mission October 11-20 aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Aquarius Underwater Laboratory, located off the coast of Key Largo, Fla.
“Astronauts navigating between planets won’t be able to turn around and come home when someone gets sick, and this undersea mission will help chart a course for long-distance healing,” said NEEMO Project Manager Bill Todd. “Aquarius, with its physical and psychological isolation on the floor of the Atlantic, will provide the real stresses needed to validate telemedicine in an extreme environment,” he added
NASA Astronauts Mike Barratt and Cady Coleman, as well as Dr. Craig McKinley of the Centre for Minimal Access Surgery at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Ontario, will join Williams in the experiment. Williams, Barratt, and McKinley are physicians. Air Force Lt. Col. Coleman holds a Ph.D. in engineering. Two other engineers, James Talacek and Ross Hein of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, will work side-by-side with the crew in Aquarius.