In this latest instalment of Space Café Australia, host Annie Handmer is joined by space medicine researcher Vienna Tran to speak about how space affects the human body, the philosophical questions that arise from human spaceflight.
Vienna is a space medicine researcher who has investigated the use of artificial gravity for the hip muscles of astronauts during a prolonged bed rest analogue. She holds a First-Class Honours degree from The University of Adelaide. She regularly gives public talks and writes articles for SpaceAustralia.com on space health, industry and STEM. In particular, she enjoys engaging with visitors in her role at the Australian Space Discovery Centre. In 2022, Vienna will be working in regional South Australia as a medical doctor to further her skills in healthcare for Earth and space.
Vienna describes precisely what happens to a human body when we launch it into space, from visual disturbances to blood volume, bone density, and sleep patterns. She explains how pathogens become more dangerous in space, and how radiation affects our cells and medications. In a surprise twist, Vienna reveals that the appendix is actually a useful organ. Annie and Vienna discuss mental health, and how living in confinement and potentially in microgravity affects psychological wellbeing. Vienna also explains how changes can be managed, from medical interventions to rotating spacecraft that generate their own gravity.
Together, Annie and Vienna tackle some of the biggest questions yet to be attempted on Space Café Australia.
- What does ‘healthy’ mean when you’re on Mars?
- How can we better understand how humans might respond to off-Earth life?
- Is it ethical to raise children in gravitational conditions for which their bodies have not evolved?
- And just what is it about the biology, culture, or social relationships of Earthlings that makes us ‘human’ anyway?
They also talk about their personal experiences forging new paths in the space sector. Vienna reflects on what it’s like to walk a road less taken, and how she finds a sense of meaning and purpose in searching out answers to questions that nobody else has solved. Annie talks about finding the spaces between the categories which humans divide the world into, and working to bridge those divides.
You can follow Vienna on social media where she tweets as @vistronaut.
This Space Café Australia was held on 10th September 2021.