By KIM BELLARD
I missed the job posting on the Company Website. I missed it again when the company posted the post on Linkedin. I missed it when Eric Ralph tweeted that the ad was “probably the coolest job posting I’ve read in years.” Luckily i am Isaac Kohne (MD, PhD), and me did see his tweet:
Yes i’m talking about EspaceX. Yes, the job is for a “Spaceship Medical Engineer”. Yes, it’s to help SpaceX’s mission to Mars, when it can be. Who knows, the job might even involve going to Mars, although it wasn’t specified.
I am of course not remotely qualified for such work. In fact, I don’t even know anyone who could be. But I agree with Mr. Ralph that this is probably the coolest job posting I’ve seen in years, maybe ever. And I agree with Dr Kohne even more: this could be an “opportunity to rethink a bigger broken system”.
Hint: I don’t think he’s just talking about the SpaceX mission.
SpaceX is looking for a Physician – MD or DO – who also has a Masters Degree in Engineering and experience in Aerospace Medicine. I imagine that drastically reduces the pool of applicants. The list of responsibilities is quite impressive:
- Serve as a point of contact for customers with relevant SpaceX stakeholders for medical development initiatives
- Work as a team to design, integrate and implement a medical system of the future
- Support research, including the collection of health data before, during and after manned space flight missions, focusing on the effects of long duration spaceflight in the context of a growing range of human health issues. passengers
- Serve as a technical expert in aerospace medicine for manned space flight activities
- Develop and coordinate flight operations in space medicine with technical, operational and programmatic parts
- Provide medical support during flight operations and development as a console operator
In short, “As a Starship Medical Engineer, you will be responsible for the development of the Starship medical system.”
In a way, SpaceX has it easy: everything is going to be new. The world has over sixty years of aerospace engineering now, since we first started trying to get people into space. We’ve sent men (yes, only men) to the Moon, we’ve had people in a circle on Earth for months at a time, and we’ve made sending astronauts into orbit almost routine, with multiple countries. and even a few private companies are doing it or preparing to do it (for example, Blue Origin, EspaceX, Galactic Virgo).
But no one sent anyone to Mars. It has been barely fifty years since we sent anyone to the moon. The moon is just over 200,000 miles from Earth; the closest Mars ever to Earth is over 30 million miles, and it can be over 200 million miles. The trip will take over seven months just to get to Mars.
The journey to Mars is quantitatively and qualitatively very different from anything we have ever tried before.
As you can imagine, if someone gets sick or injured, there is no need to call 911. There is no local hospital. There is no local pharmacy. You cannot bring anyone back on the plane. As the mission progresses, it becomes far enough away that the speed of light even limits the ability to communicate with Earth in a timely manner. Whatever expertise and equipment the crew has, they will only have to deal with whatever happens to them.
That’s why SpaceX wants a Starship medical engineer. Not a job for the faint of heart. The Starship medical engineer can build on existing solutions, but expanding them to a mission to Mars requires innovative thinking and de novo approaches.
Starship Earth has a similar problem. Aside from UFOs (or PANs, as they are called now), we are all alone here. There are no comparable planets, and no source of expertise anywhere else. If we mess things up here, we’re out of luck (that’s one of the reasons Elon Musk wants to go to Mars).
And, let’s face it, we’re screwing things up here. COVID-19 has shown us that we are always vulnerable to pathogens. Climate change could make large parts of the world uninhabitable within a century. Microplastics have infiltrated everywhere, including inside us, with impacts yet to be determined on our food chain and our health. Biological weapons, nuclear weapons and cyber weapons could each destroy us, each in their own way.
Unlike SpaceX, we have our expertise and our medical facilities (well, a lot of us, anyway). We have lots of trained health professionals, lots of health care offices and facilities, and more prescription drugs and medical devices than we know what to do with. Again in many countries, Including the United States, life expectancy was declining even before the pandemic. We live more of our lives with chronic illnesses, with too many of us spending our last few years in need of significant care. We have a lot of health care, but not enough good health.
It is as if we have planned a short trip to the Moon and unexpectedly find ourselves on the way to Mars. We don’t have the resources, especially the health care system, that we need to make the trip.
Starship Earth needs a Starship Medical Engineer.
It is enough to see how the pandemic has forced us to rediscover the potential of telehealth and how we are still striving to integrate it. We invest money in “digital health”, without really understanding how “digital health” simply becomes part of “health”. Our health system is largely separate from our public health system (s), and both are largely separate from our environmental health ‘system (s)’ We cannot even truly integrate medical care , dental, visual and auditory in the health system.
Who is inventing not only the medical system of the future but the health system of the future – not just healthcare but the way of life and the environment? Who does the research, who coordinates with the various experts in the field, who oversees the implementation of new practices? Who is lobbying to not only get more funding for existing entities, but to develop real de novo ideas for the 21?st century?
SpaceX will find someone for their Starship Medical Engineer, and he / she / they will do cool stuff. Starship Earth, I’m not so sure.
Kim is a former emarketing executive for a big Blues plan, editor of the late and late Tincture.io, and now a regular contributor to THCB.