In this Vlog, Dr Lucas Rehnberg, InnovaSpace SGen Hub Coordinator talks about his experience working at the Mission Support Centre in Innsbruck, Austria, providing remote assistance and monitoring to the analog astronauts and crew of the AMADEE18 Mars simulation mission, based in the Dhofar desert in Oman.
Blog written by Joaquim Ignácio S da Mota Neto, MD, MSc - Psychiatrist, Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil
Apparently, those weird green creatures who live on distant planets and who whizz across outer space, as seen in even weirder old sci-fi movies, are getting ready to be replaced by the very well known shape of human travellers!
Among the many issues concerning human beings becoming extraterrestrials, either permanently or for short periods of time, are those concerning mental health. What happens to our minds in a situation like that? Is the human brain mouldable or adaptable enough to avoid an emotional crisis during such a challenging experience?
Emotions and reactions to the environment are an inexorable part of human life - anxiety, fear, sadness, aggression, a wish to die, and so on. Most of these are quite usually seen as psychological or psychiatric features related to the common diagnosis of mental illnesses, such as panic disorder, major depression, psychosis or phobias. More than just feelings emerging from the latent, smouldering traits of someone's personality, they represent the way many portions of the cerebral cells and their connections are behaving in a particular period of time.
Depression is a disease that affects about 120 million people worldwide and is the leading cause of disability, according to World Health Organization. If we take this disorder as an example of a possible disruptive situation to be coped with during a space mission, we can understand the reasons why neuroscience is a very important medical field to be explored and to be put into perspective if trips like those to Mars are on the menu in the near future. Depression used to be described as the loss of the main appetites, i.e., a loss of appetite for work, food, sex, and for life itself. Perhaps more so than the feelings of sadness and hopelessness, the main real problems for depressed people are the lack of energy and decreased sense of interest or pleasure. There is also a huge impact on cognitive aspects, such as attention and memory, which reduces the ability of a person to accomplish minimal daily tasks, when mixed with insomnia, fatigue and psychomotor retardation. An affective disorder has biological and psychological triggers and it is obvious that while traveling or even living in space, the human body and all its organs, including the brain, must face troublesome phenomena, such as microgravity and cosmic radiation, not to mention the isolation and implicit fearful idea of a possible off-Earth death. Separately or together, and alongside genetic predisposition, these facts can represent the causes of mild or severe depression among crew members or civilians engaged in a space mission, besides eventually interfering in responses to treatment.
"It is a little bit surreal to know that you are in your own little spaceship, and a few inches from you is instant death." NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly, 2016
Hundreds of experts and researchers have been trying to delineate all the important medical knowledge required in order to guarantee the success of space projects. It is also crucial to take into account that mental illnesses are able to jeopardise human lives and societies on any planet, regardless of whether that planet is blue or red.
Blog written by Prof. Dr. Thais Russomano, InnovaSpace Co-Founder & CEO
Telemedicine is a rapidly emerging and growing area of health assistance, research, and education that uses information and communications technologies to provide remote assistance to communities that currently lack specialist healthcare, or access to any form of medical assistance. Imagine living hundreds of miles from specialist doctors, such as cardiologists, dermatologists, and radiologists, to name but a few. This very situation occurs in many thousands of places all over the world; it is a huge problem that can impact very negatively on people's lives. In such circumstances, telemedicine is a potentially powerful tool that can not only improve the quality of healthcare, but also help in reducing the costs of healthcare delivery. While travelling in India at the end of 2017 and visiting the Apollo Hospital in Chennai, I came across a classic example of a place where telemedicine fits in perfectly - an extremely remote area high in the Himalayas.
At an altitude of around 13,500 feet sits the world's highest altitude Telemedicine Centre, implemented by Apollo Telehealth Services. This outstanding telemedicine program was established by Apollo under the directorship of Dr. K Ganapathy (President, Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation; Director of Apollo Telehealth Services; and InnovaSpace Advisory Board member), and aims to make quality healthcare accessible to the unreached populations of the towns of Keylong and Kaza, both in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, and with a total population of around seven thousand people.
The main health services provided are the delivery of medical assistance in emergencies, and primary and specialist tele-consultations. As of the 14th December 2017, a total of 9,389 consultations between the two remote towns and the Apollo Hospitals in Chennai had taken place (666 emergencies; 8723 outpatient consults). One such emergency involved local farmer Ram Singh who began to feel short of breath one day while out tending his cows. Fortunately for him he was able to attend the Apollo Telehealth service in Keylong and was treated remotely by a cardiac specialist in Chennai. Thankfully Mr Singh survived his heart attack and is able to tell his story in the above video, which makes him a classic example of how telemedicine can save lives!
Well done to Elon Musk & the SpaceX team for the successful launch of the Falcon heavy rocket and safe recovery of 2 out of the 3 boosters - IMPRESSIVE!
Blog written by Tanja Lehmann, Electrical Test Engineer
The end of last year (5th Dec 2017) was very special as it saw the successful testing on a parabolic flight of the MIRIAM-2 (Main Inflated Reentry Into the Atmosphere Mission) technology, part of the ARCHIMEDES (Aerial Robot Carrying High resolution Imaging, Magnetometer Experiment and Direct Environmental Sensors) project of the Mars Society Deutschland e.V.
MIRIAM-2 is due to be launched into space on a sounding rocket in the autumn of 2019 from Kiruna/Sweden to test the equipment and observe its re-entry behaviour through measurement instruments in the balloon instrument pod. The long term goal is to one day send the probe with its folded balloon (also known as a ballute) to Mars, where the balloon should deploy and inflate, creating drag and slowing the probe as it descends, giving time for measurements to be taken during atmospheric entry.
Like any new technology, rigorous testing is essential to ensure it is capable of the task for which it was designed – so how can you test whether a balloon will deploy in the microgravity of space when you are on planet Earth?
The answer is to simulate, as near as possible, the weightless environment that will be encountered in space, and on this occasion the solution lies in the use of a parabolic flight. Each parabola undertaken by the pilots of the specially adapted aircraft gives a zero gravity period of around 22 seconds, a period in which experiments can be conducted, and each flight carries out around 31 parabolas.
MIRIAM-2 was previously tested on a 2015 parabolic flight, when unfortunately the deployment mechanism failed to eject the balloon sufficiently, so it was back to the drawing board for the team to improve the design.
The upgraded ejection system was once more put to the test on the 5th December 2017, when it flew again as part of the 68th ESA parabolic flight campaign in Bordeaux, on board an Airbus A310 ZERO-G. As can be seen in the below video, during the 27th of 31 parabolas, the balloon container was expelled by a spring force, and subsequently, the container walls flapped outwards to release the balloon package. The balloon material attached to the pod successfully moved away from the test rig and would have been ready for inflation, had this been the real event. All four GoPro cameras recorded video data flawlessly and the controller was also able to capture all the sensor data.
As a point of interest related to parabolic flights, I have often been asked regarding how it feels to be in microgravity, so I thought I would add a personal note here about how I perceived the sensation.
Although in reality it is a free-fall condition, it never felt like I was falling. It is instead a feeling of relief, of complete freedom. It feels totally natural and I somehow felt at home. If you have ever had a dream in which you were floating, then this is the feeling that really matches it. Weightlessness cannot be compared with swimming or any other kind of suspension, because it does not simply come from outside, it is something that goes through everything, it can be felt within the body and it becomes part of oneself. And it is something I will always be longing for!
You can find out more about the German Mars Society and MIRIAM-2 project at:
www.marssociety.de (german) and www.zerog2002.de/english.html
Blog written by Anna E. Schmaus-Klughammer, Director, Klughammer GmbH
Mongolia is a huge country, being four times bigger than Germany, with nomadic cattle ranchers (herders) making up a large part of the Mongolian rural population. Due to the vast distances between cities, these populations living and working in the remote desolate regions of the country have very limited access to specialist doctors and hospitals, and the rural-based doctors work in isolation and are often left to make their own decisions in difficult cases. Although a hospital is located in each of the 21 provinces (Aimags) of Mongolia, each Aimag is three to four times the size of Switzerland, meaning that, in general, a journey of several hundred kilometres is required to reach it.
Upon arrival at a hospital, the facilities encountered are fairly limited and the health care professionals often inexperienced, as it is state policy to send young doctors to the provinces. This situation can leave the medical professionals handicapped when faced with complex cases; with no specialist doctors to consult, patients are frequently referred on to hospitals in the major cities. This in itself is a problematic and costly procedure due to the great distances involved, let alone the additional difficulties faced when travelling whilst sick. As an example, the city of Ölgii, which is the major city of the Bayan-Ölgii Aimag in the extreme west of Mongolia, is 1636 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital city. Logistically, therefore, a journey between these two cities will take 3-4 days and will frequently involve travelling on overcrowded buses driven on unpaved roads.
Camels, yaks and the herders live in desolate regions
In such an environment the use of telehealth and telemedicine can bring enormous benefits in terms of widening access to care and to expert medical opinion, and by overcoming the isolation of patients and health professionals. In this respect, in 2009, the German company Klughammer GmbH implemented a web-based telemedicine network in Mongolia in order to help Mongolian doctors access diagnoses and make clinical decisions. The project, funded by the Swiss Development Corporation (SDC), LuxDev/UNFPA, and the Millennium Challenge Account - MCA (USA), focused on mother & newborn health care, newborn hip screening, tumour detection, and cervical and breast cancer investigation.
All 21 provincial hospitals were connected via an interactive Internet platform to hospitals in Ulaanbaatar, with the Mongolian University of Health Services, National Center for Mother and Child Health of Mongolia, and National Cancer Center of Mongolia all being a part of this telemedicine network. Klughammer supplied, assembled and installed all the hardware and software required, such as computers, monitors, apparatus for transmitting patient image or laboratory results, and microscopes and radiology equipment, as well as providing staff training in the use of these. A web-based Electronic Health Records system, called CampusMedicus, was also introduced. This important healthcare IT application permits the secure storage of patient data, medical history, laboratory test results, and radiology and histopathology images. Each patient record allows case discussions to take place between doctors at a local, national and international level, giving access to expert medical opinion and enabling conference calls, for example to discuss patient tumour cases, among others.
The practicalities of such a system have enormous potential to make a real difference to the lives of patients and doctors in remote regions such as Mongolia. It provides the opportunity for medical staff in the remote provinces to upload patient exams onto the platform, like tumour tissue microscope images, X-ray images of fractures, and ultrasound images from pregnant women, which can be securely stored and forwarded to specialist hospitals. Medical experts in the capital city Ulaanbaatar can then study these images and give their opinion for each patient case, adding it to the telemedicine platform, which operates in real-time. Access to the platform can also be made available to international specialists when needed. Since 2009, this ongoing project has led to the review of approximately 50,000 patient dossiers, leading to a decrease in the number of patients referred to Ulaanbaatar, and therefore improving the service provided to patients, speeding up diagnoses, and enabling large savings to be made in terms of time and money.
Blog written by Susanne Cappendijk, PhD, MBA, Founder and CEO of EDsnaps Inc, a 501(c)(3) organization focused on "Increasing Diversity in the STEM Workforce", New York City, NY, USA
On a bright September morning some 4 years ago, I was preparing the voluntary before-school session for the middle school SciGirls Club Program in Tallahassee, FL. One of the 6th graders entered the classroom stating, “Hey Dr. C, I like SciGirls a lot, but I do not like math”.
Over the past 20 years, I have heard this statement and its variations repeatedly from female students, ranging from age 5-18. And every time I hear it my blood starts boiling, my toes are cringing, my eyes are turning red and smoke comes out of my ears; you get the picture. However, I play it cool and ask the student, “Why do you not like math? You do math all the time and you are pretty good at it as you are here on time!” Then I explain to the student that in order to be on time, she used math as an application to calculate the time needed to travel from home to school. Students often do not consider time as a concept of math.
In the STEM curricula that I designed over the years, we use a variety of applications to show that STEM is fun. Physics is fun when applied in a self-defense seminar. Math is fun when applied on a 3D-cube shape. Engineering is fun when applied to building an electric circuit. And who does not like to step into Augmented or Virtual Reality, which applies and combines numerous disciplines of STEM.
Why do students in general, and female students in particular, demonstrate a misleading perception towards STEM disciplines? The Oxford Dictionary defines perception as “a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something, a mental impression”. The reason(s) for having this misleading impression can be due to several factor(s): geo-location, gender, family heritage, socio-economic classes, educational programs, and cultural background. Every one of us has experienced this issue (in)directly. Think of the family member who did not like math and repeatedly shared this vision, or a teacher discouraging your friend because she did not have grades to apply to a good college, or a neighbor discouraging girls not study math because math is not for girls, or parents who are not supportive of their daughters pursuing a post secondary education.
How can we interrupt this flow of misleading perception? Is the mental impression irreversibly anchored in the minds of female students? As a neuroscientist I argue that it is not. Everyone, including students, is exposed to the outside world, which continuously affects the brain circuitry. A STEM outreach program that provides positive real-life fun STEM experiences might initiate a perpetual central change. One might argue that this thought is simple, idealistic, and imperfect. However, I am not striving for perfection since perfection usually means stagnation and stagnation is detrimental to a change in mental impression.
We, as outreach STEM and STEAM educators, need to offer opportunities to students using socio-economic status, geo-location, gender, race, or age as positive tools to re-wire neuronal pathways. Our main goal should be to create a positive mental impression of STE(A)M for any student. Does my advocacy work? Yes it does. Our previous programs with the middle school SciGirls in Florida and our 3-week EDsnaps Program launched this past summer with underserved female high school students in the Bronx are living proof. Seeing is believing, check out the video in which the EDsnaps students demonstrate their awaking growth-mindset
Blog written by Mary Upritchard, InnovaSpace Admin Director
It really is just a matter of time before a manned space mission is launched into deep space, whether once more to the Moon or more likely to Mars. Of course, the time scale is still being measured in years, but interest in such a venture is growing fast and there are already leading players with plans to reach the Red Planet in the next decade.
Elon Musk of SpaceX has an ambitious plan to send a crewed rocket to Mars by 2024 using an under-development reusable rocket that will ultimately replace his Falcon rockets; the Mars One group are aiming to land a Mars crew by 2031 using technology bought from other aerospace companies; and NASA is currently testing its Orion spacecraft for use with the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), a rocket that will be capable of propelling humans and cargo out of Earth orbit.
The NASA journey to Mars will include a series of stages, an ambitious step-by-step plan to put humans into low-Mars orbit by the 2030's. The Earth Reliant phase will continue to build on research already being conducted on the International Space Station; the Proving Ground phase will see a series of missions near the Moon – called “cislunar space” – assessing the capabilities needed to live and work on Mars; and finally, the Earth Independent phase will test the entry, descent and landing techniques needed to alight safely on the Martian surface, and study how the natural planet resources can be used to sustain a human presence.
In the recently advertised Project Mars International Film and Art Competition, launched by SciArt Exchange, and with the support of NASA, young enthusiasts of Space and Mars exploration will have the opportunity to get their creative juices flowing, producing either a 5-minute film or designing a promotional poster focused on any aspect of the NASA plans to arrive at the Red Planet. Whether individually, or working as a team, let your imaginations loose and help visualise humankind’s journey into deep space. The global competition is open to early career professionals (less than 5 years experience) and college students from anywhere in the world, and the only cost involved in submitting is in terms of your time, your imagination and your endless enthusiasm for Space. The panel of competition judges is made up of leading experts from the worlds of space and art, including astronauts Nicole Stott (NASA) and Samantha Cristoforetti (ESA), Film Director Gareth Edwards (Star Wars, Godzilla, Monsters) and Joshua Grossberg, Vice President Creative Director of McCann New York, a global award winning advertising agency.
It's time to breakout your multimedia software and direct your thoughts towards how you would feel living and working on a space station orbiting the Moon? What would it be like to be confined within a spacecraft for many months, hurtling through deep space, further and further away from home and toward a planet so very different from your own? And what would you imagine the arrival at the Red Planet to be like? There are so many questions that will remain unanswered until the day humans step foot on Martian soil, however, in the meantime, we are limited only by our own imaginations - set your mind free and dream your way into Space!
Visit www.ProjectMarsCompetition.org for more details about the contest, judging panel, prizes and FAQs.
Entrants may also wish to visit http://projectmars.freeforums.net/ - a useful discussion platform through which NASA engineers can be asked any technical questions you may have, where you can talk with like-minded people about your ideas and progress, or even look for collaborators to strengthen your team and boost your chances of landing the big prize - Good Luck to everyone!
Blog written by Dr. Lucas Rehnberg, InnovaSpace SGen Hub Coordinator
In the build up to the AMADEE-18 mission in Oman in February 2018, the Austrian Space Forum is in the thick of preparation with the leadership team and the analogue astronauts (AA) undergoing intensive training. But not only this, the Austrian Space Forum, with all the excitement surrounding AMADEE-18, organised an additional weekend of training for the volunteers that are so eager to take part; this came in the form of Analog Mission Basic Training (AMBT) for AMADEE-18. I myself got caught up in this and am honoured to have taken part in this training to join fellow Mars pioneers and space enthusiasts on this endeavour to help pave the way for a future mission to Mars.
The training weekend recently took place in the beautiful city of Innsbruck, Austria, just before the opening of the Christmas markets. In this quiet city surrounded by the Alps, an international group of young scientists with a shared passion for space gathered for training. What struck me immediately was the range of nations and backgrounds of all the volunteers that were involved. There were undergraduate science students, psychologists, IT experts, doctors and space engineers, to name a few. And these individuals came from across Europe and even as far as Oman to be a part of this mission. True to its mission goals, the Austrian Space Forum, with projects like AMADEE-18, is providing outreach and opportunities for young professionals and students to engage in space life sciences by providing hands on experience. The gathering of this group of volunteers shows how space has this universal appeal, able to be cross-generations and truly be multi-disciplinary.
Lead by its President, Dr. Gernot Grömer, and the leadership team, we began our training in earnest. This training had been a fairly new innovation of the Austrian Space Forum, born from years of experience of conducting these analogue missions. With technology and software evolving so rapidly, it is easy to see how between missions individuals would need to re-validate or completely learn new skills and familiarise themselves with the latest changes in order to run a safe and efficient analogue mission. To this end, this training was developed in order to set a new standard of training for the volunteers and participants in these analogue missions.
The training began with a tour of the facilities, including seeing some of the scientific experiments that will be taken to the field, and team building exercises to break the ice and to get acquainted with our new colleagues for the up coming mission. Rapidly the group came together, with a shared passion for this common goal, this group of strangers quickly formed the new mission support team that would help run AMADEE-18.Technical lectures were broken up with some inspiring talks from Dr Grömer and his team, but also by one of the current AA, Kartik Kumar. Kartik is currently preparing for his second analogue mission, but took the time to give us a talk on his experiences of selection, training for this mission and what is it means to him to be an AA.
The bulk of the training came in the form of a ‘simulated’ or ’Sim’ mission in the actual mission support centre (MSC) in Innsbruck. We were trained with the latest software and protocols, as well as operational procedures. It was also an excellent experience to see what it is really like to work with a 10 min time delay (due to the distance from Earth, radio communication takes 10mins, one way!). This small taste of ‘hands on’ training brought it home as to what it will really be like when the mission launches (or ‘lands’) on the 8th February in Oman. The level of complexity, planning and logistics for these missions is astonishing and a real credit to the team at the Austrian Space Forum.
There is definitely a buzz in the air at the Austrian Space Forum. The passion for this mission and for what they do is palpable. From the top, with Dr Grömer, down to the newest intern, they truly love what they do, and passionately believe in what we are doing and trying to achieve with AMADEE-18 and the missions to come. The Austrian Space Forum may not have the resources or prestige of the national space agencies, however you would be foolish to think that their passion or commitment to sending mankind to Mars is no less intense. The Austrian Space Forum, in partnership with the Sultanate of Oman, has already made waves and contributed hugely to the space community with acquiring new knowledge for all to benefit from as well as galvanising students and space enthusiasts, myself included.
For those who wish to know more or simply follow AMADEE-18, there is lots of information about the mission on the OeWF website, and there will be more teasers released as the launch date approaches. Follow the build up on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) and follow the link to monitor the count down:
For further mission description, follow the below link:
Follow on social media with #oewf #AMADEE18
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Outer Space Treaty, and considering the InnovaSpace overarching principle that advocates for a Space Without Borders, Vice-President of the Brazilian Association of Aeronautical and Space Law, José Monserrat Filho,* was invited to write a commentary on this topic.
Space Law was born out of the Cold War and lucky that it was! Were this not the case, its beginnings would have been much more complicated. What was discussed before was the warlike power of space. When Space Law was born, with the launch of Sputnik I by the former USSR, on October 4, 1957, the United States had already been developing since 1956 the Corona, the first spy satellite. Just imagine if the Corona had been the first satellite in history.
The Space Age would have begun under the direct impact of the Cold War - ready to boil over. Still, it was the Soviets who launched the first satellite, and the United States had to lower the ball and think of peace, to face the red danger coming from Moscow, who were now owners of the first intercontinental ballistic missile that had launched Sputnik into orbit, and could reach far enough for the USA to feel threatened. However, the USSR had been devastated by the battles throughout Europe from World War II and could not contemplate another major conflict so soon, and the United States, great winners of that War, had to overcome the pioneering space advances of the Soviets, advances that put the American population in fear. All in all, it was a big dogfight.
This proved to be an optimum time to create Space Law in order to prevent the transformation of space into a new battlefield. In 1958, just one year after Sputnik, the United States and the USSR agreed to the United Nations General Assembly resolution 1348 (XIII), recognizing the need to avoid taking terrestrial rivalries into space.
The “peaceful uses of outer space” became the common and dominant expression. In 1958, the USA created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which was devoted exclusively to peaceful purposes. That same year also saw the emergence of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS), which went on to approve resolutions 1471 (XIV) in 1959; 1721 (XVI) in 1961; and 1802 (XVII) in 1962, all linked to the main theme of “cooperation for peaceful uses of outer space”. Many other resolutions focused on this premise have since been approved and there is no reason to change this in the coming years.
The threat of war in space grows. Today, in 2017, we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Space Age and the 50th anniversary of the "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies" - known as the "Outer Space Treaty" and considered to be the major law of space activities.
The Outer Space Treaty states (Article I, § 1º): “The exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind.” This province is owned by all and for the common good of all.
There are some great powers, mainly those spacefaring nations, who are committed to creating a new law in order to favour their military forces and businesses. Fortunately, most of the UN General Assembly member states support the Outer Space Treaty and have no desire to change the fundamental principles that underpin it. What will Space Law be like in this new and rather more tense 'Cold War' of the 21st century? It will be essential for nations to battle intensively towards the objective of achieving a more humanistic International Law.
Curiously enough, today more than ever, the benefits and services provided by space are indispensable to the whole world. Yet, also more than ever, space has become threatened, especially due to armed conflicts and the growing hazards presented by the ever-increasing mass of space debris orbiting around our planet.
*José Monserrat Filho, Vice-President of the Brazilian Association of Aeronautical and Space Law (SBDA), former Head of the International Cooperation Office of the Ministry of Science and Technology (2007-2011) and the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) (2011-2015), Honorary Director of the International Institute of Space Law, and Full Member of the International Academy of Astronautics. Ex-Director of the magazine Ciência Hoje and Editor of the Jornal da Ciência, SBPC, author of Politics and Law in the Space Age - Can we be fairer in Space than on Earth? (Vieira & Lent Casa Editorial, 2017). E-mail: email@example.com