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Chilean miners: NASA official on their health

By Ed O'Keefe


Miner Mario Gomez, the oldest miner, was the ninth person to emerge from underground. (Reuters)

Michael Duncan, chief medical officer and lead of the NASA team that went to Chile, answered questions Wednesday about the health of the rescued miners and the agency's role in assisting with the rescue mission:

Springfield, Ill.: What was the major medical help that NASA provided which seemed to help the most-- general health care, specialized health issues that a certain miner may have had, or dietary suggestions? (or others)

Michael Duncan: I think what we brought to the table for the Chileans was our experience in behavior health support, not only in terms of the confinement and entrapment for that period of time but also what the miners and the families could experience once the miner had been rescued. In working with our astronauts and their families we prepare them beforehand and we support them during the mission and we support them after the astronaut returns. And I think our expertise in those areas was very helpful for the Chilean doctors and psychologists.

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Fairfax, Va.: I was surprised at the beginning of this story to hear that NASA was to be involved. That seemed to come out of left field. Does NASA do this often?

Michael Duncan: The Chileans, through the Chilean space agency, contacted NASA and this was the result of the fact that both agencies participate in the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. The Chileans felt that NASA, because of its experience in long duration space flight might have something to offer with regards to medical care and behavioral health support. And for NASA it was a way of bringing our knowledge of space flight back down to the ground to help the people earth.

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Annapolis, Md.: Do the miners have to be in isolation for a period of time? When can they go home?

Michael Duncan: The miners do not have to be in isolation or quarantine. They will, however, be sheltered away from the pressures of the media and other entities that want to talk to them. And I think that each miner and the family will react differently and therefore I couldn't predict when the miners will be allowed to go home.

Read the full chat and leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | October 13, 2010; 10:25 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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