I recently had the opportunity to visit the National Library of Medicine (NLM) in Bethesda, Maryland. It’s part of the NIH campus (National Institute of Health), where all sorts of exciting research is going on.
Any knowledge on any subject can be useful to my writing. I would have been happy to find documents on the latest advances in Band-Aid design. But I was much luckier than that. The NLM has primary and secondary sources in many areas of health and biology, including the work done by NASA.
When we first started sending people into space, there were some big questions about safety. Not just about whether or not the rocket would blow up on the launch pad, but could the human body survive the rocket’s sudden acceleration it would experience if it did work? Could the circulatory system operate without gravity? What about the lungs?
Even today, there is still a lot we don’t know about the human body in space. As a science fiction writer, I love hearing that we don’t know something. It means I can start making stuff up. But first, I have to find out exactly where those gaps in our knowledge are.
I left the NLM with a book’s worth of photocopies. I have chapters from a book called Space and Life by Hubert Planel, a safety report from the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement, and articles from the journals Science and Nature.