The Project Bio-SPHERE with Dr Alexandra Iordachescu
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How can we create a field laboratory and medical facilities during deep-space missions?
Whitby Museum is proud to present a talk on some of the important deep-space research taking place within The Boulby Deep Underground Laboratory.
International space programmes such as the Artemis mission will facilitate a return to the Moon in the next years and a testbed for a crewed mission to Mars. The initial goals are to construct a life-support infrastructure as well as bases and facilities for research in order to ensure a sustained presence on the Moon. However, the space environment presents numerous hazards, such as reduced gravity and significant radiation, which can cause substantial physiological challenges for astronauts.
These clinical effects and the likelihood of tissue trauma during complex operations will require solutions to manage these emergencies on-site. Autonomous biomedical operations are also required due to the inability to evacuate in an emergency and because of the extensive communication delays (which can range from 5–20 min in the case of Mars).
Bio-SPHERE (Biomedical Sub-surface Pod for Habitability and Extreme-environments Research in Expeditions) is a research programme and deep-underground capability set up by the University of Birmingham in partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Boulby Underground Laboratory. It is located between Saltburn and Whitby on the North East coast of England and on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors.
The work focuses on bioengineering and biomedical research that can support the health of crews in a spaceflight or expedition scenario. The project uses the unique geological environment and deep subsurface location (1.1 km underground, within the deepest mine in the UK) to recreate the operational environment of a cavernal or subterranean habitat which can offer protection from radiation, significant temperature fluctuations and damage from falling cosmic objects.
The speaker will discuss the project and research programme at Boulby and the benefits of conducting this type of interdisciplinary research.
About the speaker
Dr Alexandra Iordachescu is an Academic and Scientist at the University of Birmingham in the School of Chemical Engineering, where she leads a research theme focused on engineering tissue analogues (also known as organotypic models) for regenerative medicine and simulating the response of biosystems to extreme environments. As part of this research, she investigates bioengineering solutions that can support habitability in extreme environments and leads the Bio-SPHERE programme at Boulby Underground Laboratory.