What the moon landing meant for healthcare in the U.S.

Susanna Kahr

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Little did he know then, that his “one small step for man,” really was “one giant leap for mankind,” especially where advances in medicine were concerned. In the past 50 years, thanks to the wonders of spaceflight, a huge number of advances have been made in the healthcare industry in the U.S., read on to find out more about what the moon landing did for you. 

New medical technologies

Although we may not know it, we’ve all been affected by the moon landing in so many ways. Just take a look at the NASA Spinoff website and you’ll see the multiple technologies that have changed our lives, thanks to the NASA space program, here are just a few. 

A number of computer technologies came out of the space program that not only helped build the computer and technology industries that we know and love today, but also helped to develop all kinds of medical devices. This is because, when Congress established NASA in 1958, it required the space agency to share information about its discoveries and they were encouraged to patent inventions and help businesses develop commercial uses for them. 

One great example of a medical advance that NASA was at least partially responsible for is digital image processing. This was initially developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to enhance pictures of the moon. Today, millions of cancer patients depend on this digital imaging made available through MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machines, or CT (computerized tomography) scans as both technologies can detect tumors. 

“NASA enables science, technology, innovation and exploration. It is an agency of brilliant people who seek to do amazing things. I work with people who launch to ISS and I have met astronauts and world class scientists. These are people who dream big and go get their visions.” – anonymous employer review at NASA

Another example is the LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) which was developed by engineers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and Dr. Michael DeBakey in 1995. This artificial heart pump is based on the space shuttle’s fuel pumps and helps keep people healthy while they wait for heart transplants. In some cases, it even makes a transplant unnecessary and as such has saved the lives of thousands of people. 

NASA is also responsible for propelling the field of prosthetics thanks to new miniaturized robotic devices and materials. For example, the foam that was developed to insulate space shuttle external tanks has also been used to make less expensive, better molds for artificial arms and legs. 

The future of healthcare

People have now been living and working in space continuously for the past two decades! The astronauts who have bravely traveled where no man has been before, have put themselves under extreme conditions which means that doctors have been able to better understand the human physiology under new kinds of stress. 

Although astronauts are selected based on rigorous health and fitness tests, after only a few months in space they become vulnerable to a number of different health conditions. Since they can’t exercise as they would on Earth they begin to lose bone and muscle mass and their immune systems take a hit, meaning that any dormant viruses can start to affect them. Their hearts stop pumping so quickly, they become prone to developing kidney stones and their blood vessels stiffen. In some cases, their optic nerve can swell up and they might even have increased pressure on their brain. All of this means that astronauts have to make regular checks and treat each other without the presence of doctors. 

“NASA is more of a family than a job I really enjoy what I do and often think of how I can make the organization better than what it is currently.” – anonymous employer review at NASA

NASA is hoping to send astronauts to Mars in the near future, which means that astronauts will need to detect even the most subtle changes in their own health. This is why NASA is investing in cutting-edge research for human health and performance including high-risk high-reward approaches funded through the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH).

On a mission to Mars, astronauts will be able to test their blood with a single drop, track their health with a sophisticated algorithm, take automated eye examsfind and treat kidney stones with ultrasound and even customize their own medications on the spot! With all of these developments being made for astronauts, just imagine the changes that we will begin to see in our healthcare industry in the coming years! Interested in joining NASA on their journey?

“Anyone blessed enough to get an opportunity to work for NASA, in my opinion, should take it without a second thought. It will be the best decision one has ever made as far as working for an organization that is a leader in Space Technology and development. So, study hard, study long, and come join THE BEST ORGANIZATION within the federal government.” – anonymous employer review at NASA

Do you want to know what it’s like to work as an astronaut? Check out our employee reviews of NASA on kununu.com. Who knows, you could help to develop the next medical breakthrough!


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