Astronauts are among the fittest and healthiest people in the world. But what exactly happens if they do get sick? Can they return back home?
Especially these days when coronavirus infections are surging worldwide, the International Space Station may be the safest place to be.
One of the attributes of living in a hermetically sealed aluminum can that is 400 km above Earth is that you don’t get exposed to people with the flu.
Astronauts onboard the International Space Station are rigorously trained, vetted, and quarantined before they’re allowed up in space. After undergoing years of laborious training, their activities are closely monitored by a Flight Surgeon, months before they launch.
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Also, 10 days before launch, astronauts are given thorough medical exams to ensure they are not currently infected with anything.
As a result, the risk of an astronaut getting seriously ill or needing intensive care is as low as about 1% per person a year.
But despite all those precautions, they do sometimes get sick.
All astronauts go through some basic training on medical treatment. So they can assist a crewmate who becomes ill or suffers an injury.
A basic medical kit is also provided on the space station. It contains first aid kits, along with some medical equipment such as an automated emergency defibrillator, a portable ultrasound, and blood pressure cuffs.
Also, a doctor is always available to consult with the patient to diagnose an illness and instruct them on what medication to use and the appropriate dosage.
However, if it becomes serious enough, astronauts will probably board their Soyuz capsule and come home early.