Video Games Are Reshaping How We Think About Life After Earth

In orbit, the human body changes in unexpected ways

Shannon Stirone
OneZero
Published in
5 min readFeb 25, 2020

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Photo: Level Ex

AAll astronauts must go through rigorous medical training to prepare for space. They need to know that, say, if a fellow astronaut experiences chest pains on a spaceship en route to Mars, a crew member must ultrasound their heart — which will look oddly spherical compared to a heart on Earth. NASA’s medical training, however, is complicated by the very limited data on astronaut health. Only a few hundred people have ever been to space, and even fewer have been on long-duration flights. To prepare astronauts for completely new medical scenarios they might encounter while in orbit, NASA is turning to video games.

The space agency’s Human Research Program, together with an academic consortium called the Translational Research Institute for Space Health, or TRISH, partnered with the medical video game company Level Ex in August 2019 to provide simulated training for the human spaceflight program. The initial grant, which will provide an undisclosed amount of funding for 12 months, will help Level Ex develop a training framework for all active astronauts. Level Ex’s existing phone-based games for doctors and nurses, like Pulm Ex (for pulmonologists) and Airway Ex (for anesthesiologists), are first-person shooter-style games that…

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