International Cooperation of Space Programs and Scientists in Dealing with COVID-19

In April of 2020, facing a shortage of ventilators, a group of doctors in New York City determined a way to refit sleep apnea machines for use with COVID patients. The report of their work is included in an article published April 7, 2020 in Business Insider, entitled: “A NYC Hospital has figured out how to turn sleep apnea machines it got from Elon Musk into ventilators for coronavirus patients”.

The collaboration of the US hospital and their innovative doctors with South African- born Elon Musk who donated the apnea machines, was perhaps indicated in a recent report from the South African space program itself. (Musk holds citizenship in South Africa, the US and Canada.)

On April 4th, the South African administration announced it had put the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) — the people who built the MeerKAT, the nation’s first radio telescope — in charge of managing ‘the national effort required for local design, development, production and procurement of respirator ventilators’ for the COVID response.

On June 26th, the Johannesburg-based Mail & Guardian reported “Next month will see the first batch of non-invasive ventilators arrive in our hospitals, with a roll out of 20,000 in the pipeline.” The design is uniquely non-invasive, the oxygen being delivered to the patient through a traditional nasal cannula, more like a CPAP machine—continuous positive airway pressure, used for millions to counter sleep apnea—and not requiring invasive “tracheal intubation.” Not only has the specialized “intubation” procedure recently come under medical question as a response to the virus, but also the SARAO device does not require any specialization to administer, being usable under a wider variety of circumstances. The design is also more successful.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket achieved a milestone in delivering two NASA astronauts to to the International Space Station on May 30, 2020 — a major achievement for a private company, and an important development for NASA. Musk was congratulated for this success by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who stated on June 1st: “In the midst of our struggle against COVID-19, Elon Musk has made us proud as a country and continent … It is most appropriate that we have been given this hope and excitement at a time when insecurity and uncertainty defines the human condition in many parts of the world.”

Collaboration of space programs and scientists continues world-wide. On May 31, 2020 the Executive Intelligence Review reported:

NASA’s JPL-Designed Ventilator for COVID Treatment Is Going Viral

May 31, 2020 (EIRNS)—Countries all over the world are getting licenses to produce the new ventilator specially designed to treat COVID-19 patients by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). The Press Trust of India reported May 30 that “three Indian companies have gotten licenses from NASA to manufacture its indigenously developed ventilators for critical COVID-19 patients. The three Indian companies are Alpha Design Technologies Pvt Ltd, Bharat ForgeNSE 6.22% Ltd, and Medha Servo Drives Pvt Ltd, the space organization [NASA] said in a statement on May 29.

Apart from the Indian firms, 18 other companies, including 8 American and 3 Brazilian, have been selected to manufacture the critical breathing devices. The JPL engineers designed the special ventilator—called VITAL—in little over a month and received “Emergency Use Authorization” from the Food and Drug Administration on April 30. The VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally) equipment uses just one-seventh as many parts as a traditional ventilator. NASA said that it relies only on parts which are readily available in many countries’ supply chains. This makes its production simpler, cheaper, and faster than for previously available ventilator designs.

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