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Search for LAUNCH:Health Innovators

We’ve been super busy planning our next LAUNCH sustainability forum. The topic for our second forum is “sustaining human life.” LAUNCH is our incubator program that searches for visionaries, whose world-class ideas, technologies or programs show great promise for making tangible impacts on society. At each LAUNCH forum, ten innovators and 40 thought leaders come together to address these sustainability challenges.

Often health isn’t considered a sustainability challenge, but think about it. What good is sustaining air quality, clean water supplies, and renewable energy sources if humans aren’t here to enjoy it? What happens if we’re not around to tell the story of humanity?

Sustaining quality of life for the human race is the ultimate challenge.

Astronaut Shannon Walker on Space Station using glovebox. Credit: NASA
Astronaut Shannon Walker on Space Station using glovebox. Credit: NASA

Human health is an important part of NASA’s portfolio. We strap human explorers (otherwise known as medical test subjects) to incendiary devices (otherwise known as rockets) and blast them outside our protective atmosphere.

Keeping astronauts healthy and safe = CRITICAL mission requirement.

Right now, our astronauts live off planet Earth for missions that last half a year. How the human body reacts to changes in gravity, radiation, and even psychological isolation, mirrors health issues faced by the rest of us who never leave the planet. For instance, we’ve learned the value of daily exercise in keeping bones strong during space missions — just like the need for exercise at home.

How we use technology to monitor and address health issues in the extreme environment of space has direct applications for use by communities living in remote locations on Earth — in developing countries or isolated regions.

@Astro_Wheels works on science freezer in Space Station Destiny lab. Credit: NASA
@Astro_Wheels works on science freezer in Destiny lab. Credit: NASA

Someday, we’ll leave this planet for longer periods. We’ll travel around the universe. We’ll set up colonies on other planetary surfaces. We already monitor maternal health concerns, with so many females in the astronaut corps. At some point, we’ll concern ourselves with child health — once they’re born on long-duration missions. Yes, it will happen.

The real question is: when.

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson on Space Station. Credit: NASA
Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson on Space Station. Credit: NASA

Fun Fact: I’ve been part of a long-term health study for the last 25 years. I’m a “control subject” for female astronauts.

LAUNCH: Health will be held in conjunction with the STS-133 Space Shuttle launch down at the Kennedy Space Center. We’ve been working closely with our founding partners USAID, State Department and NIKE, and our forum partnersVestergaard Frandsen and IDEO, to develop criteria to select the LAUNCH: Health innovations.

We posted the LAUNCH: Health call for innovators on InnoCentive as an ideation challenge. We’ll have the challenge open for 30 days. Your solutions can be social, policy or technology innovations that have potential for disruptive impact — in a positive way, of course. You will need to sign up as an InnoCentive Solver to post your innovation.

Toms ShoeSocial Change: Personally, I think TOMS Shoes, as a business concept, is an amazing example of social innovation. For every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, a second pair is donated to a child. The simple act of wearing shoes prevents cuts that expose children to tetanus, as well as diseases like human hookworm and podoconiosis. My daughter Steph and all her friends wear TOMS, and request TOMS for birthdays and holiday gifts. They believe wearing TOMS makes a statement that they care about making the world better, one pair of shoes at a time.

TOMS One for One business model succeeded in:

  • creating awareness among those of us who have closets full of shoes,
  • changing attitudes, and
  • inspiring action.

In fact, TOMS birthed a movement. You can show your support by participating in “One Day Without Shoes” on April 5, 2011. Brilliant!

Toms Shoes Movement. Credit: TOMS
Toms Shoes Movement. Credit: TOMS

Aren’t you inspired? So, what do you have up your sleeve that you’re willing to share? Do you have what it takes to make a positive difference in world health? Get creative. I dare you.

Save the WORLD: one innovation at a time!

For more information about our first sustainability forum, visit: LAUNCH.org. (We’re busy updating the website to reflect LAUNCH: Health.)


Crosspost on Beth Beck’s blog and OpenNASA.

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Profile Photo Beth Beck

We’ve been talking with CDC and NIH. Hoping to bring them into the conversation in a meaningful way for the LAUNCH: Health. I’m sure we have other initiatives where we partner with other agencies. I’m pretty focused on this project…and social media/outreach. 🙂