Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 40

Submission from Dr Benjamin Marriage

  I wish to register my interest and support for the UK governmental support of a UK-based space-related research and human space exploration program.

  1.  Whilst there seems to be encouraging opportunities for British citizens to be involved in space-related teaching and research at undergraduate level, at present there remains a disappointing absence of opportunities to forward and extend this important skills base at post-graduate level. My personal experience to date includes:

  2.  Aerospace Physiology BSc degree; as an undergraduate degree, this really provides the knowledge base for interested individuals and always contains a research project. Our principle investigation was researching the effects of hypoxia and the efficacy of different oxygen delivery systems at maintaining alveolar oxygen tensions. The science and data yielded from such investigations for example could be used to advance British based technologies to develop novel oxygen delivery systems which would be of huge financial benefit to the National Health Service. Unfortunately, no post-graduate opportunities exist to conduct this research, so we are unable to provide the intelligence for novel medical technologies and rely on overseas technology. At a scientific level, a further understanding of hypoxia and its effects, which not only has implications for human space exploration, is hugely relevant to such a vast array of medical diseases that we encounter on a daily basis.

  3.  European Space Agency (ESA) Student Parabolic Flight Campaign: the only opportunities for UK based students are the outreach programs run by ESA. Our team investigated the effectiveness of a new technique of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in microgravity. This is such a fundamental skill within the medical field and an important consideration for the safety of human space exploration.

  4.  ESA Student Space Medicine Conference: I was involved with two research ideas to develop countermeasures for microgravity-induced disuse osteoporosis and muscle atrophy which had spin-off implications for Earth-based populations. This is a huge area that can be mutually beneficial for advancing understanding of human spaceflight and with practical science advantages which are applicable immediately here on Earth eg preventing hip fractures or bone/muscle wasting in neurological disease.

  5.  UK Space Medicine Association Conference: These conferences have dramatically grown in popularity over the last few years and it is remarkable how much interest and how many health care professionals and researchers with an interest in space medicine there are despite the lack of opportunities available. There is a pre-existing UK skills base which is ever increasing.

  6.  In summary, the UK has already built a rapidly growing skills base of health professionals and researchers with an interest in space medicine from the pre-existing under-graduate opportunities but in the current climate we are not utilizing this resource to its full advantage because of the lack of opportunities in the UK. The vast benefits of human space exploration in terms of fundamental scientific return to the UK would be large and a UK-led human space flight and synchronous space research program would get my full support.

October 2006

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