How will space help with future pandemics?

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A multidisciplinary crew of 86 professionals returns safely from across the Solar System having accomplished a challenging mission!

Strasbourg, France, 21 August 2020,

“The eighty-six crew members representing thirty nationalities from the International Space University’s ISP [1] program have safely returned today to ISU’s Central Campus in an uneventful re-entry sequence that brought them back from their habitats on Earth orbit, on the Moon and on Mars after an expedition of intense five weeks where they have practiced to live and work as multidisciplinary teams to accomplish a challenging mission.
The main part of their mission was to investigate how space technologies and applications could be used in the future for the monitoring, mitigation and prevention of pandemics on Planet Earth, and to make recommendations to decision makers in academia, government and industry.
The crew presented today the result of their studies and recommendations. Their reports will be published early September on ISU’s Library portal

The above release may sound like science fiction, but ISP has been a real simulation conducted as a highly interactive online professional development experience with participants (“crew members”) and close to 200 expert faculty and lecturers located at their homes, across time zones on Earth.

Forty percent of the crew were women. The age range was from 20 to 60 with an average of 36. 70% had a master’s degree or higher, and 50% had three years of professional experience or more.

Crew members and experts were attending from virtually all time zones and from disciplines spanning from public health and life sciences, to engineering, satellite applications, IT, management and business, policy, economics and law, and the humanities.

Recommendations to decision makers on how to prepare for the next pandemic:

The crew studied the prevention and preparedness strategies adopted in the past to deal with pandemics across the globe through literature search and consultation with numerous experts in a time span of five weeks that ended with their final presentation of 21 August 2020.

To optimize the use of existing satellite data on remote sensing of the Earth, the group has recommended an enhanced collaboration between space agencies, companies and United Nations specialized organizations such as WHO and UNOOSA through the creation of an international Charter on Space and Pandemics, modeled after similar existing charters.

Satellite data can also be processed to produce risk maps that help public health authorities produce early warnings and take better informed decisions.

Other findings and recommendations are in the use of satellite communications and related applications for tele-medicine, tele-education and communication of precautionary measures to the populations. The use of satellite mapping and satellite positioning and navigation is considered a promising asset for a more systematic use of drones in medical emergency situations such as pandemics.

Finally, the use of microgravity environments such as onboard the International Space Station is recommended for the development of vaccines, based on positive experiences in this domain.


The ISU report on “How can space technology and applications help with monitoring, mitigation, prevention and preparedness for the next pandemic?” will be published early September 2020 on ISU’s Library portal.

[1] The ISU Interactive Space Program (ISP) is an online professional development experience that prepares participants for the challenges of working as international, intercultural and interdisciplinary teams across the distributed domains of Earth, orbit, Moon, Mars and interplanetary space. More details are available here.

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