The International Space Station is important for the critical research that is ongoing and will help us eventually get to Mars. However, there are even greater benefits that the people of earth enjoy right now from the work the astronauts are doing.
In a world where the major economies have been experiencing terrible recessions, growth and opportunity in new markets are vital for recovery. One such economy can be found in what is called the “low-Earth orbit” economy. NASA and the ISS make a pathway to this economy accessible. Companies such as NanoRacks hardware are forging new territory exploring the profitability of doing business in low-Earth orbit. NanoRacks provides laboratory space. One of their creative ideas are CubeSats that were recently deployed from the space station and will help the research going on in the cosmos be more efficient and affordable. Private sector models like this are a part of the world economy’s future that could very well bring about profitable competition that will benefit the entire planet.
One of the gringa’s favorite things NASA and the ISS regularly contribute to are global efforts to provide clean drinking water to disadvantaged people. Commercialization of the technology used by space agencies to provide drinkable water for astronauts has resulted in organizations collaborating together to put this technology to humanitarian uses. Thirsty people in sub-Sahara Africa need only look to the stars and say “thank you”.
We’ve all heard about the disease muscular dystrophy. What we may not have all heard of is the important research going on within the space station that could very well result in a better designed drug that could successfully treat this disease. Because of muscular issues long-term deep space deployment creates, NASA is always on the look out for a breakthrough that will keep astronauts strong and healthy. Part of this ongoing research has resulted in growing and cultivating high-quality protein crystals. Microgravity is the perfect place to grow these crystals. By better understanding the structure of these proteins and how they affect the human body, more effective treatments can be designed.
How many of us have had a loved one receive an ultrasound to determine the health of a pregnancy and, perhaps, the gender of the baby? This technology is something most of us take for granted. Well, sometimes an astronaut can benefit from an ultrasound in space if immediate medical attention is required. However, because of the nature of the space station, new technology had to be developed to shrink down the typical monstrosity of an ultrasound scanner. Now, NASA didn’t play stingy with its new pint-sized ultrasound device that was developed for the health security of astronauts. Medical care worldwide, especially in remote areas, has been improved because NASA shared this technology.
A couple of decades ago when Lasik eye surgery was in it infancy and was then called radial keratotamy (RK), the gringa had that corrective surgery on both of her near-sighted eyes. The laser surgery was originally developed to be used in the space program. That shared surgical technique has, over the past decades, refined and perfected to the point that it is a simple, everyday outpatient treatment which rarely even results in missing a day of work. It’s just incredible.
Thanks to NASA and its willingness to share such wonderful technology, the phrase “inoperable tumor” may become a phrase of the past. Robots are going to play such an important part of getting us to Mars that it is only logical that there will most certainly be some sharing of robotics technology with medicine. The neuroArm is a robotic arm that has already successfully removed supposedly “inoperable” tumors. The technology of this robotic arm is based on the Canadarm that was developed by multiple agencies for the space program. The robots of Canada’s space agency perform heavy lifting and maintenance tasks on the ISS. But, the gringa believes that nothing weighs heavier than a tumor that has been deemed “inoperable”. If anything at all makes the crazy dreams of exploring outer space valid, I think it has to be the lives of the thirty-five patients who had their “inoperable” tumors removed.
One thing that is going to affect all of us at some point will be the effects of old age. One thing old timers have to try to prevent is osteosporosis. Because space missions always result in the loss of bone and muscle mass because of the lack of gravity, some of the most groundbreaking discoveries on osteosporosis take place among the scientists of our space agencies. Already humans are benefitting from the development of a drug as a direct result of outer space research.
However, one benefit that warms the heart of the gringa is how the work at the ISS inspires our youth of today. I am so thankful that NASA regularly engages students of all ages and levels to participate in challenges and programs. The gringa cannot think of a better way for the world to become a better place where political factions and border wars can be relegated to the meaningless backburner and we can all recognize one another as fellow human beings who are sharing and exploring an incredible universe together. Truly our youth are not only our hope to save our physical planet, but surely they will be the generation that can socially and politically evolve to a higher level and get our planet one step closer to eradicating factious war.