As the frequency of space travel grows and humans inch ever closer to long-distance, interplanetary missions, the need for specially trained medical personnel who can support the health, safety and well-being of astronauts and other travelers aboard spacecraft and in extraterrestrial environments has become increasingly important.

UCLA’s newly launched Space Medicine Fellowship — the first of its kind in the nation — will soon begin training members of this new generation of flight surgeons. The unique two-year program, which has accepted its first fellow, involves rotations at aerospace company SpaceX, completion of a specialized engineering curriculum developed by Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and biomechanical engineering training at UCLA’s Samueli School of Engineering.

In addition, through UCLA, fellows will undergo a mission in Utah that mimics the conditions and health risks space travelers would face on the surface of Mars and will conduct research with NASA’s Human Research Program. They will also participate in rotations in an isolated polar environment with limited resources to understand how the body withstands pressure changes in such terrains.

Dr. Haig Aintablian, who recently completed his residency in emergency medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has been chosen as the program’s inaugural fellow and will begin his training in July 2022.

“It’s an incredible honor to be the first fellow to participate in this program and reach my goal of becoming a flight surgeon,” he said.   

Read the full news release.