Friday, November 3, 2023

Space Medicine and Exploration

 I have a couple books today for kids who love space and might want to be an astronaut or astronomer. The first is all about keeping healthy in space.
Spacecare: A Kid's Guide to Surviving Space
by Jennifer Swanson
80 pages; ages 8-12
‎Mayo Clinic Press Kids, 2023

Living in space is not like living on Earth, writes Jennifer Swanson. It’s dark and cold. Or sunny and hot. And then there’s the whole lack of gravity thing, which can affect our earth-adapted body in so many ways. Even if you’re safely aboard the International Space Station, which has atmospheric pressure and temperature regulation, your body will feel the effects of microgravity, radiation, and all other sorts of space phenomena.

Space can affect our eyes, our heart, our brain, and our bones. It affects our muscles, our sense of balance, and our sleep cycle. In this book, Jen takes a close look at how living in space puts new stresses on our body, and how space doctors help astronauts adapt to their new environment. Their research doesn’t stop when astronauts return to earth – they follow the health of returned space voyagers to see what (if any) long term effects there are from space travel. 

Questions from kids are sprinkled throughout the book, and answered by astronaut Megan McArthur. They ask things like: do cuts take longer to heal in space? and what happens when you sneeze? There are plenty of “Mayo Medi-facts” boxes throughout the book that explain health issues, and a full spread showing what a well-stocked first aid kit should contain (for Earthlings on their home planet). And there are sidebars about space technology, from space suits to growing food in space. Plus space squid!

This book was a lot of fun, so I had to ask Jen Two Questions:

Me:  It feels like you’ve been writing about space and astronauts for a long time. What is it about space travel and exploration that captures your imagination so much?

Jen: This is only my second book about astronauts. But I've done other space books and I have a couple more in the works. What I love so much about exploration in general, whether it be in space or under the ocean, is the amazing ingenuity of the humans who make this possible. I mean, wow, building a place that keeps humans alive in an environment that is so hugely hostile to them take some really cool thinking and awesome engineering. Using that place to do science to investigate, explore, and solve questions about our place in the universe? Even better!

Me: If you had a chance to go to the International Space Station, would you? And what would you want to study?

Jen: Actually, I'm not sure. I'm not great in confined spaces... I'd much rather write about the cool science and engineering being done to get humans to space and also what they do up there. If I did go, I'd love to study more about the effects of radiation on humans. That fascinates me.

Jen Swanson is a member of #STEAMTeam2023. You can find out more about her at her website, She is also the creator and co-host of Solve It! for Kids podcast

Thank you, Jen. Now let’s check out another book for space-bound teens.

The Big Backyard: The Solar System beyond Pluto
by Ron Miller
104 pages; ages 13-up
Twenty-First Century Books , 2023

If you could travel to the farthest reaches of our solar system what would you find? It’s a cold, dark world out there, filled with comets, floating icebergs, strange dancing particles, and other stuff left over from the formation of our solar system. Author, Ron Miller starts with the birth of our solar system some 5 billion years ago, and the formation of planets.

Then we go on a planet hunt (with some historical sky-watchers), explore the Kuiper belt, and then head on beyond Pluto. Just how far does the sun’s light reach? And what’s between our solar system and those distant stars? “The nearest stars,” he says, “are so far away that their light takes more than four years to reach Earth.” Even from that distance they have an effect on our solar system, and he shows how modern researchers study the distant sky – our “big backyard” he calls it.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copies provided by the publishers.


  1. Space travel is a topic kids have an interest in learning more about. These two books seem like a must for school and home libraries. Thanks for featuring them on this week's MMGM

  2. Space Care sounds really intriguing. I really like the questions that are intermingled. This would have really been popular at the library I used to volunteer at. Happy MMGM to you

  3. Space Care sounds like a really cool book that kids interested in space would enjoy.

  4. Nice introduction to both books. I love the questions you asked Jen. She definitely has an affection for all things space! Carol Baldwin

  5. These both sound really good, but I think Space Care would be a fascinating read for me and for lots of kids out there. What a great concept for a book. Thanks for the introduction to these books.