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October 17, 1986

Questions Surround Shuttle, Future Life Sciences Studies

JAMA. 1986;256(15):2011. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380150021004

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ALTHOUGH ACQUISITION of medical data from space flights is limited by allowable time, space, and invasiveness, the American space shuttle— which, by some predictions, eventually was to have flown up to 60 times a year—at least held out the hope of acquiring this important information bit by bit.

And 1986 was to have been the busiest year yet for the shuttle, with a goal of 15 launches (compared with nine in 1985). But all that ended with the Jan 28 crash.

Now, NASA is attempting to address the questions that must be answered before flights resume in 1988. Among the most prominent are: If future crew members initially survive a major malfunction—as it appears at least some of the Challenger crew did—is there any way to provide an escape? And can future flights be made more safe?

NASA research to date suggests that the only answer to the first question