Broadcast 1023 (Special Edition)

23 Sep 2008 Dr. Melchor J. Antunano
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Guest: Dr. Melcho Antunano, Director of Civil Aerospace Medical Institute at the FAA, was the guest for this Space Show program. Our primary topic for discussion was the role of the FAA in setting policy, guidelines, or requirements for medical qualifications for flight crews and spaceflight participants for both suborbital and orbital space tourism. Dr. Antunano pointed out several times that the FAA does not set the policy or requirements. Instead, they produce guidelines only and it is then up to the spaceflight companies to issue their own standards and guidelines. He said it would be possible for there to be differing requirements issued by each company depending on company requirements, vehicle flight profile, or other specific conditions. Dr. Antunano also described some of the medical conditions that would likely prevent a spaceflight participant from flying and he described the FAA flexible approach to the issue and told how they differ, and why, from the standards used by NASA or the military for astronauts. He told us that for suborbital space tourism, flight crews will need a Second Class FAA medical certificate , the same as a general aviation pilot needs for commercial flight. Several listener driven questions asked Dr. Antunano about sex in space, pregnancy, testing to make sure a spaceflight participant was not pregnant, infectious disease and disease testing of spaceflight participants. Do not miss this discussion. I asked the doctor about the use of prescription drugs, especially for older spaceflight participants that find themselves on routine meds for blood pressure, cholesterol, a host of age related problems, even calcium problems for older men and women. He said this was a problem and that there was research into how to deliver these meds more effectively than by mouth because it's the absorption issue in the intestines that causes a problem, so you will want to hear what he has to say about this. He suggested that possible IV applications or even sublingual reformations of the meds for use in space. But again, it's less of a problem for suborbital because the microgravity part of the trip will be limited to 4-6 minutes, a very short time. These are issues more specifically related to orbital flight. Dr. Antunano brought to our attention many other issues and he provided us with great insights. For example, near the end of the show, I asked him about his years of speaking and addressing space advocacy groups and if he had noticed an evolution in awareness or growth in understanding the problems from these groups. This is also a must hear discussion during this show. Originally, Dr. Antunano was going to be with us for just one hour without a break. However, he was with us for a full 90 minute show, no breaks. Thus, this is an action and information packed fast moving, outstanding program. You gotta add this Space Show with Dr. Melchor Antunano to your list! If you have follow up comments or questions for Dr. Antunano, please email him at melchor.j.antunano@faa.gov.

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