The development of ultrasound for space now helps remote communities on Earth

ESA implements a meticulous astronaut selection process, not only based on cognitive ability, working proficiency and skill set, but also on strict medical considerations. One of its main objectives is to limit risks of medical emergency occurring during long duration spaceflights. Ultrasound is one of the most interesting imaging techniques for tele-medicine in space. It indeed provides medical experts with real-time access to a patient’s anatomical and functional information while being rather straight forward in its implementation and use. Most importantly, ultrasound is harmless and non-invasive. In addition, it has become compact and lightweight compared to other medical imaging systems. This is an important advantage in the spaceflight context. As such, ultrasound is also often used in space for scientific experiments that aim to investigate the impact of microgravity on the human body. With scientific support from ESA and financial support from both ESA and the French Space agency (CNES), the France-based company developed MELODY, a technology, building on fifteen years of space research, allowing specialists to perform tele-echography through a computer interface. An assistant simply needs to hold the device against the patient, and it is to the expert to move the probe with the help of a joystick from his/her own location (see picture above).

Demonstration Project