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October 17, 1986

How Will Humans Act As Science Fiction Becomes Fact?

JAMA. 1986;256(15):2048-2052. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380150058009

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TO SEEK OUT new worlds and boldly go where no man has gone before has been the mission of the Starship Enterprise for the past 20 years, and its success was marked with a huge birthday party in Hollywood last month for everyone ever associated with the highly popular Star Trek television and movie series. So far, Captain Kirk, Mr Spock, and other made-up characters are the only space explorers to have spent years away from the earth. But many ordinary folks, as well as scientists and science fiction buffs, are now asking: What will space travel be like in the not too distant future for their real-life counterparts?

NASA, the Soviet space program, and space agencies in other nations have done a great deal of research to try to answer this question; the accompanying articles detail much of the relevant data. Experience gained from the American astronauts' 4-, 9-,