The Slovenia Times

Unique space medicine study programme launched

Health & MedicineScience & Education
Wind tunnel at the PlanicaNordic Centre. Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

The Ljubljana-based Jožef Stefan Institute has partnered with universities from Germany and France to carry out a new international post-graduate study programme on space medicine, the first of its kind in the world.

Called SpaceMed Erasmus Mundus Joint Master, the two-year programme will focus on physiology and medicine in space and in extreme environments and is a result of collaboratio between the Jožef Stefan Institute, the Charité University of Medicine in Berlin, and the University of Caen Normandy.

It is part of a six-year project supported by 40 international partners, including several Slovenian space tech companies, which see this as an excellent opportunity to develop new talent needed by the space industry.

More permanent bases on the Moon are expected to be constructed this century, which will allow further exploration of space, especially additional missions to Mars, the project's head Pierre Denise from the University of Caen Normandy said.

"Training personnel who will be in charge of keeping space passengers and employees healthy and well will be crucial," Denise pointed out. This was the main motivation behind creating the programme, which is mainly intended for biomedicine students.

The aim is to educate future researchers, doctors and scientists who will then be involved in the preparation and monitoring of space flights. Engineers, who will also be part the programme, will design, optimize and manage support systems for living in space and on Earth.

At least 25 students are expected to enrol every year. Each country will host the students for one semester. The Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate School will be in charge of the third semester, which will focus on acquiring practical skills and carrying out field work.

At the Planica Nordic Centre, home to the European Space Agency's research centre, where a short arm human centrifuge is located, students will get hands-on experience on how zero gravity works and conduct research on how artificial gravity can prevent the negative effects of zero gravity on humans, said the head of the Planica research centre Igor Mekjavić.

Because future spacecraft and habitats on the Moon and on Mars will most likely be hypoxic, field work will take place in cooperation with the Slovenian Speleological Association and the Slovenian Alpine Association.

European astronauts have been regular visitors in Slovenia's caves when preparing for space missions because caves are an ideal environment to simulate conditions on the Moon or Mars. The students will also use Slovenia's highest-lying ski resort Kanin to examine how humans react to extreme conditions.


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