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Space Biology and MedicinePerhaps one of the greatest gifts that has been given to the people of the world in the last few hundred years has been an emerging sense of the place of our planet and its inhabitants within the context of the vast universe. Our knowledge of the rest of the universe has not come quickly, nor was the process of attaining it only recently begun; however, the unprecedented acceleration of that process has benefitted from a fundamental new aspect of our species that has only manifested itself in the last 30 years or so, the ability to travel in space. Before the space age, the Universe was studied only through observations from the Earth. All that has changed with the beginning of the space age. Machines built by humans have flown to all but one of the nine planets that revolve around our Sun, have ventured billions of miles from the Earth and looked back, and have landed on three other worlds. Spacecraft in orbit around the Earth have viewed the sky at a vast number of electromagnetic wavelengths, detecting the shape of the galaxy and the universe, and even measuring the remnants of the universe's beginning. Human explorers have ventured forth, first for short stays in orbit, then, later, walking upon the Moon and living for long periods in space. As they did so, billions of people on the Earth came to view the Earth in a fundamentally different way, not just as the familiar day to- day backdrop for their lives, but as a small oasis suspended in the night sky above an alien landscape. It is this new view of the Earth that is the true gift of space exploration. Space exploration has at once given us a new perspective on the value of our world, and a new perspective from which to understand how it operates. It has shown us that the Earth is by far the most precious place in the solar system in terms of supporting human life, while revealing that other destinations may still be compelling. The exploration of space has at once become a challenge for humanity to overcome and a path to our common future. But for humanity to embark on this path, we need to understand ourselves in a new environment. As such, an understanding of the biological consequences of and opportunities in space flight is essential. In this, the first volume of a joint U.S./Russian series on space biology and medicine, we describe the current status of our understanding of space and present general information that will prove useful when reading subsequent volumes. Since we are witnesses to the beginning of a new era of interplanetary travel, a significant portion of the first volume will concentrate on the physical and ecological conditions that exist in near and outer space, as well as heavenly bodies from the smallest ones to the giant planets and stars. While space exploration is a comparatively recent endeavor, its foundations were laid much more than 30 years ago, and its history has been an eventful one. In the first part of this volume, Rauschenbach, Sokolskiy, and Gurjian address the "Historical Aspects of Space Exploration" from its beginnings to a present-day view of the events of the space age. The nature of space itself and its features is the focus of the second section of the volume. In the first chapter of the part, "Stars and Interstellar Space," the origin and evolution of stars, and the nature of the portions of space most distant from Earth are described by Galeev and Marochnik. In Chapter 2, Pisarenko, Logachev, and Kurt in "The Sun and Interplanetary Space" bring us to the vicinity of our own solar system and provide a description and discussion of the nearest star and its influence on the space environment that our Earth and the other planets inhabit. In our solar system there are many fascinating objects, remnants of the formation of a rather ordinary star in a rather obscure portion of the galaxy. Historical accident has caused us to be much more curious (and knowledgeable) about "The Inner Planets of the Solar System" than about any of these other objects. In Chapter 3, Marov describes the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, their history and origin, and their environmental conditions, and in Chapter 4 Owen provides similar information about Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, "The Outer Planets of the Solar System." Morrison provides a thorough discussion of "Asteroids, Comets, and Other Small Bodies" in Chapter 5. The understanding of these relics of the formation of the solar system may form the center of our ability to understand the origin of solar systems in general, and of the critical role that the beginning of the solar system had on the prospects for the origin of life and its continued survival and evolution in the face of their recurrent impacts on Earth. In Chapter 6, the first chapter of the third part, Rummel describes the area of "Exobiology," the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the context of the origin and evolution of the universe. The same processes that have given rise to life on Earth may have given rise to life elsewhere. In Chapter 7, the "Earth and the Biosphere," the nature and function of the Earth are discussed as a specific instance of planetary and biological evolution. The effects of biological processes on the Earth under the influence of human activities are also addressed by Moore and Bartlett in Chapter 7. The final chapter in this section concerns the prospects that life in the universe may be widespread; "SETI," the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, by Billingham and Tarter, presents the arguments for conducting a search for evidence of life elsewhere in the galaxy, and describes the various methods proposed for conducting such a search. While SETI has a distinctly exploration al character, more direct means are available for exploring the solar system around us. The fourth part of the volume addresses this subject of space exploration. Considering the prospects for research on space biology and medicine, the means of providing "Access to Space" are described by Feoktistov and Briggs in Chapter 9. This chapter addresses carriers and launch systems, the unmanned and manned spacecraft that they loft into space, and the task of mission operations by which these precious vessels are monitored, navigated, and controlled. Despite the successes of the past and the capabilities of the present, it is clear that the study of space biology and medicine will be even more rewarding in the future than it has been to date. The work of the next few years that will be undertaken by the U.S. and Russia, both independently and jointly, will focus first on enabling greater capabilities in the exploration of space, and then on using the unique characteristics of the space environment to provide insight and greater understanding into biological systems, their behavior, development, and origin. The chapters of the first volume were written by leaders in their fields from the U.S. and Russia. The material presented summarizes our current understanding of space and its exploration. We understand that the first volume will be of interest not only to medical personnel and biologists, but also to general readers who want information about space beyond their own particular fields of expertise.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Document Type
Nicogossian, Arnauld E.
(NASA Headquarters Washington, DC United States)
Mohler, Stanley R.
(QSS Group, Inc. Cleveland, OH, United States)
Gazenko, Oleg G.
Grigoryev, Anatoliy I.
(Institute of Biomedical Problems Moscow, Russian Federation)
Date Acquired
June 17, 2015
Publication Date
January 1, 1993
Subject Category
Space Sciences (General)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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