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The Final Frontier
News story originally written on May 16, 1998

As four climbers make their assault on Mt. Everest's summit this week, NASA and Yale University will be testing new health care devices based on space science technology. From the mountain's extreme environment, health data will travel from the base camp to the NASA-Yale telemedicine project. The problems of high-altitude adaptation, physiological stress and the climbers' location represent great medical challenges similar to an astronaut's situation in space.

"In a few months we will begin assembly of the International Space Station with an eye toward further exploration of our solar system," said NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin. "To ensure a safe trip for our astronauts, we need the best computational, communication, engineering, and medical technology. At NASA, we are working on virtual environments for surgery, decision support systems and the most advanced medical monitoring techniques. Just think what this could mean for health care here on Earth. The NASA-Yale project is helping us achieve these goals. I wish our Mt. Everest pioneers great success as they help NASA climb the final frontier."

A team of Department of Defense and MIT personnel will be stationed at a base camp of 17,500 feet. The climbers ascending Mt. Everest will transmit data from sensors monitoring vital signs and location and, whenever possible, video of their progress. Yale personnel, supervised by Dr. Ronald C. Merrell, chairman, Yale Department of Surgery and director of the NASA-Yale project, will support medical consultation and monitor the health status of the climbers during their trek.

NASA and Yale have been working in partnership since July 1997, to contribute to the United States' competitive lead in commercial applications of telemedicine. The goal of the program is to develop and test next generation technologies. Tests on Mt. Everest may lead to design improvements in future automated medical monitoring and care systems for astronauts who may be in space for months, not weeks.


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