The Digital Astronaut: An integrated modeling and database system for space biomedical research and operations
The Digital Astronaut is an integrated, modular modeling and database system that will support space biomedical research and operations in a variety of fundamental ways. This system will enable the identification and meaningful interpretation of the medical and physiological research required for human space exploration, a determination of the effectiveness of specific individual human countermeasures in reducing risk and meeting health and performance goals on challenging exploration missions and an evaluation of the appropriateness of various medical interventions during mission emergencies, accidents and illnesses. Such a computer-based, decision support system will enable the construction, validation and utilization of important predictive simulations of the responses of the whole human body to the types of stresses experienced during space flight and low-gravity environments. These simulations will be essential for direct, real-time analysis and maintenance of astronaut health and performance capabilities. The Digital Astronaut will collect and integrate past and current human data across many physiological disciplines and simulations into an operationally useful form that will not only summarize knowledge in a convenient and novel way but also reveal gaps that must be filled via new research in order to effectively ameliorate biomedical risks. Initial phases of system development will focus on simulating ground-based analog systems that are just beginning to collect multidisciplinary data in a standardized way (e.g., the International Multidisciplinary Artificial Gravity Project). During later phases, the focus will shift to development and planning for missions and to exploration mission operations. Then, the Digital Astronaut system will enable evaluation of the effectiveness of multiple, simultaneously applied countermeasures (a task made difficult by the many-system physiological effects of individual countermeasures) and allow for the prescription of individualized astronaut countermeasures. Additionally, during exploration missions, this system will support autonomous and telemedicine-assisted health and performance assessment and medical care.