Joaquim de Diniz, a physician in the remote town of Manga in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil performs a tele-ultrasound and communicates the data with another physician over the internet. Image Credit:  NASAUltrasound and remote medicine methods that are in use aboard the International Space Station have been adapted for use on Earth to save lives around the world. This example, along with a few of the many benefits provided by research performed on the space station, is highlighted in NASA’s new feature “Benefits for Humanity.”

The space station provides a microgravity environment for researchers to conduct biology and biotechnology, human health, Earth and space science, physical science and technology experiments, among many others, in a way that was not possible just 15 years ago.

Remote telemedicine in the large state of Minas Gerais in Brazil is saving lives of those in very isolated rural communities. Ultrasound technology adapted from the space station is helping with prenatal care and diagnostic capacity where patients and doctors are separated by a great distance. Just as on Earth as in space, trained medical personnel are not always immediately available.

NASA’s Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in Microgravity (ADUM) investigation trained astronauts and cosmonauts to use an ultrasound unit and transmit images in real time back to Earth. These images could then be sent to physicians to make medical decisions without actually being with the crew member. This technology can provide more detail during examination of a patient in a remote area and help in administering first aid, where quick decisions are necessary.

In the small, extremely isolated town of Manga in Minas Gerais, many people rely on this ultrasound technology to help solve medical problems due to lack of access to other types of care. Joaquim de Diniz, a Manga physician, related the story of a female patient who had a mere 20 to 30 minutes to live due to severe respiratory failure. Using the remote ultrasound equipment, he and his team of medical professionals were able to determine the problem and treat a large amount of fluid around the patient’s heart and lungs. The patient quickly recovered. “It was like a miracle,” said de Diniz. “She was dying in front of us, without people knowing what was happening. This ultrasound was instrumental in saving the life of that patient.”

With its completion in 2011 and at its 15-year anniversary in 2013, the space station’s full research capabilities have only just begun. The International Space Station is improving and changing lives on Earth with each experiment in orbit, all through a collaboration of international partnerships to provide benefits for humanity.

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