Monday 20 January, CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall met Gilles Bloch, Chairman & CEO of Inserm, the French national institute for health and medical research, at the agency’s Head Office in Paris Les Halles. Flanked by their science and engineering teams, they discussed implementation of the framework cooperation agreement signed in September 2016 covering space physiology research and development of methods, tools and services employing space technologies for health applications.
Through its involvement since 1976 in bio-astronautics research, CNES has contributed to many results in areas such as the kinetics of bone loss during spaceflight, pathophysiology of the metabolic syndrome, remodelling of blood vessels and DNA repair mechanisms after radiation exposure. This research on astronauts has helped to understand the importance of the respective health effects of physical exercise and sedentary behaviour, which is a major public health issue.
Inserm’s contribution to such space research—through eight of its laboratories—has helped to make France the second-ranked nation in the world for scientific publications on these subjects, an excellent result that is a testament to the close ties between the two organizations that must be pursued and strengthened to meet the challenges of crewed space exploration that we now face.
The renewed global ambitions for space exploration and human spaceflight being affirmed today are opening up new avenues and fronts in fundamental and instrument science where Europe and France intend to be players. On a national level, France could play a significant role by mobilizing research efforts in all of these areas, notably development of ways to offset the effects of the space environment on humans, of instrumentation for telemedicine and life-support solutions for hostile environments, and of solutions to combat radiation effects.
Looking ahead, promising avenues for future cooperation between CNES and Inserm include:
• Use of simulated microgravity infrastructures to support research protocols outside the space domain (dizziness, osteo-sarcopenia, sedentary behaviour).
• Pooling of expertise in artificial intelligence and data processing.
• Co-construction revolving around disruptive technological innovations offering likely benefits for health on Earth and in space.