Skip to main content


Medicine at the Final Frontier

Module titleMedicine at the Final Frontier
Module codeHPDM075
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Malcolm Hilton (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

In this module you will learn the core environmental and physical challenges associated with human spaceflight, including acceleration forces, radiation, atmospheric control, pressure excursions, and lack of standard circadian cues.  You will also learn the physiological changes associated with human adaptation to weightlessness and how these influence the clinical practice of space medicine.

Module aims - intentions of the module

In this module you will understand the effects of environmental factors and weightlessness on human health and performance during and after spaceflight, and familiarize with the clinical implications associated with these factors.  You will focus on the current practice of space medicine and delivery of care on space platforms as well as countermeasures administered against deleterious effects of spaceflight.   Information will stem from operational experience from spaceflight medical support as well as human life science investigational results.   A special emphasis will be given to space medical literature and the limitations and interpretations of investigations performed during or in support of spaceflight.   You will also learn the geopolitical influences on human spaceflight and how these affect the practice of space medicine.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Understanding the fundamental issues associated with human spaceflight
  • 2. Acquire awareness of knowledge gaps and ongoing critical research
  • 3. Critically appraise published research and operational practices

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Understand the incidence, presentation, and approach to typical medical problems in space medicine
  • 5. Identify sources of space medical information
  • 6. Understand ground analogues for spaceflight and their relative contributions

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Apply generic principles of extreme medicine to human spaceflight and leverage intersections
  • 8. Be able to advise and inform prospective spaceflight participants, for agency level and commercial spaceflight

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, an example of an overall structure is as follows:

Physical Forces Associated with Spaceflight

Acceleration loads

Fractional and artificial gravity

Spacecraft orbital mechanic and flight dynamics


Spacecraft Environments

Pressure and environmental control

Atmospheric constituent and metabolic gases

Spacecraft toxicology


Physiologic Adaptation to Weightlessness I: Acute System Response



Fluid shift and volume regulation

Cardiovascular response

Physiologic Adaptation to Weightlessness II: Long Term System Response

Musculoskeletal deconditioning

Cardiovascular and aerobic performance

Overview of physical countermeasures

Neurosensori and behavioural adaptation


Immune System

Clinical Problems Associated with Spaceflight

Medical standards

Inflight medical events

Health effects of radiation

Decompression disorders

Neuro-ophthalmic disorders

Spaceflight medical systems

Post flight Medical Issues and Misc Topics

Orthostatic Intolerance

Neurosensori deficits

Physical deconditioning and re-adaptation to gravity

Spaceflight Analogs

Knowledge gaps and research summary

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching30Residential course: Lectures, seminars, master-classes, practical exercises and group work in specialist areas, and contemporary debates
Guided Independent Study80Reading and preparation for scheduled sessions and coursework. Web-based learning; resource gathering and in-depth reading during the period of module delivery.
Guided Independent Study40Preparation and writing of assignments.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Verbal feedback during residential coursen/a1-8Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written assignment1002000 words1-8Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written assignment2000 words1-8August to September

Re-assessment notes

Please refer to the TQA section on Referral/Deferral:


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Fundamentals of Aerospace Medicine

Edited by  Jeffrey R. Davis , Edited by  Robert Johnson , Edited by  Jan Stepanek , Edited by  Jennifer A. Fogarty 


ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Space medicine, aviation medicine, artificial gravity

Credit value15
Module ECTS


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date