When astronauts visit the International Space Station or the Moon, they're only a few days away from home in an emergency. But ambitious plans to send humans to Mars means that astronauts could be up to eight months away at any given time.
One of the most complicated issues encompassing long-term space travel involves emergency medical care. Given the vast distance, astronauts can't just return to Earth for surgery or treatment, and it's NASA's responsibility to ensure that astronauts have everything they need before leaving Earth.
Experts in the field are actively trying to develop versatile surgical tools that take up less space in an attempt to make them more space-friendly. After all, spacecraft have limited room to work with. Furthermore, medical teams are working closely with NASA to learn how to perform surgical procedures in near-zero gravity environments.
Although we're still a long way from colonizing Mars or any other planetary body in our solar system, it's never too early to prepare for the unknown. In doing so, we can ensure the safety of every astronaut that endures long-term space travel in the name of science.
As a bonus, developments conceived from this or related research also have the potential to improve healthcare for patients right here on Earth.