How do these experiences affect and affect your time in space?
Every astronaut is different. There is no fixed path. What the space agency is really looking for is a generalist, because once you get into space, you must be able to solve almost any problem.
I am really an engineer. My basic tendency is to love machines. I just like to solve problems and put them in a box. I think the basic definition of medicine is actually interest in people. You put yourself in the perspective of others and decide, “If it were me, my brother or my mother, what would I do?” This is the fascinating thing I found in medicine. It allows you to understand the nature of being a person. It can help you traverse the hustle and bustle of culture and touch your heart. It is very useful in space. You can speak in a truly reassuring way, put things in perspective and help. If there are conditions on board, it is always reassuring. For the crew, we have a responsibility to take care of each other.
During the pandemic, you have become a practicing physician again. Has being in space changed the way you approach medicine?
I do feel strongly that I am still in space-I am only on the Earth Mothership. This view will never leave me. From space, you can catch a glimpse of the earth, which is of course beautiful: the glowing blue, the ocean and the city lights at night are an elegant dance of life. But the most impressive thing is when you look in another direction with your back to the earth. And all you see is emptiness. You can imagine this situation will continue forever. It is so cute to see how humans are exposed to this fragile little miracle on this planet. It gave me a very lovely love for human beings, and it is incredible that we hold onto this place tightly, develop all these cultures, raise children, give full play to creativity and create art. This makes me fall in love with people.
For those who are not familiar with how space and medicine intersect, how would you describe some of the ways in which medical research we conduct in space will benefit people on Earth?
We have done a lot of research on astronauts in space. Because there are many diseases that affect astronauts. It’s just not good for you in the space environment. There is no sense of gravity; space, radiation, isolation and confinement-the pressure of this environment is very bad for you. So we are like the perfect guinea pig for medical research: bone health, cardiovascular health, brain health, psychology, psychology, hematology, immunology-you can think of it.
Another aspect is medical technology. We need to enable astronauts to help themselves and help each other in this ultra-remote environment. When we provide medical services to people living in rural and remote areas, workers in dangerous environments, troops on missions, expeditionary teams, or the elderly, the problem is the same as that faced on earth. Who is too weak to even go to the clinic. So the problem of administering medicine to patients is a very modern thing. I think this pandemic has made us all very interested in this ability to provide medicine to patients-using space to test how these things work.