VITORIA, SPAIN - A Spanish mountain-climber will become in September 2009 the first diabetic traveler to outer space, where he will undergo three scientific experiments related to his illness while trying out a new type of insulin. Josu Feijoo, a native of the northern Spanish city of Vitoria, told Efe in an interview that he has volunteered on previous occasions for trials of new techniques, including one that enables blood glucose levels to be transmitted to doctors in real time from anywhere in the world.
Feijoo has climbed to the top of Mount Everest, Elbrus, Mount McKinley, the Vinson Massif in the Antarctic and Mount Kilimanjaro, with two peaks still remaining for him to conquer among the seven tallest mountains in the world. Thanks to the sponsorship of a businessman, his childhood dream of space travel is about to come true - he has already bought his astronaut helmet for the occasion.
In September 2009 Feijoo will board the spacecraft VSS Enterprise, the property of VirginGalactic, which will take off from the air force base in California's Mojave Desert, and will reach an altitude of 135,000 meters (443,000 feet). He plans to be at the base 10 days before takeoff to prepare himself physically for the flight that will last between four and five hours. Two professional astronauts will show him how to conduct himself in outer space.
Eighteen years ago when he was 23 he was diagnosed with an aggressive kind of diabetes, and ever since has had to give himself four injections a day. In space he will take a new insulin for which trials have already been carried out on land with animals and with diabetic patients, who are able to inject themselves just three times a week instead of every day. The effects of the medication last between 48 and 55 hours, and the idea is to determine whether it still continues to function in outer space.
Feijoo will therefore board the ship with high blood glucose levels and will not inject himself with insulin until he is in space. He will also test a new measuring device for blood glucose fitted with a tele-medicine system that every 15 minutes will transmit to Earth the results of its analysis. The third experiment will consist of extracting 10 milliliters (1/3 ounce) of blood to see whether protein levels vary in a weightless state.
Although he has no fear, Feijoo has drawn up a will "just in case." He says that if the new insulin fails to work as it should, he has a sufficient margin of time until the spacecraft lands so that his life will not be in danger.