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For nearly 35 years, MEDES has sought to maintain and develop French know-how in space medicine and physiology and to promote the applications of space research for healthcare.

In the 30 years and more since its founding, MEDES has been called upon by the world’s main historical space agencies, including NASA, ESA, CNES and Roskosmos. Its expertise is also sought after by new entrants in manned flight, such as India and the United Arab Emirates. The institute is a preferred partner for many academic and industrial institutions, promoting space/health links through cooperation and co-innovation.

MEDES is thus a key player in health activities in the space sector:

  • Through its Space Clinic which furthers knowledge of the effects of microgravity on the human body and contributes to the selection of European astronauts,
  • or through its medical team, which takes care of European astronauts before, during and after their space flights,
  • or through its physiologists and biomedical engineers, who train and support astronauts for in-flight physiology experiments,
  • or through its project teams, which develop new health innovations or applications that are useful both in flight and for societal needs.

Its activities are divided into three main areas that are closely related: support for space exploration, clinical research activities and healthcare applications and innovations.

…The funding and developement of MEDES…​

MEDES Historical


The Earth is the cradle of mankind, but man cannot live in the cradle forever” said Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who is considered to be the father and theorist of modern astronautics. Humankind has always sought to explore new horizons and space exploration is a perfect example of this.

Scientists in Toulouse have contributed to space research since the beginning of manned space flights, first with Professor Hubert Planel, a pioneer in space biology for the Apollo missions, then with Professor André Bès and the first research studies into human physiology carried out aboard the Saliout station, with the active support of Mr René Bost, who started these programmes at CNES.

This work led to the first mission involving a French astronaut, Jean Loup Chrétien, in 1982.

Researchers quickly understood the need to strengthen the relationship between space research and medical research, and under the impetus of Professor Claude Gharib, created a scientific group, the Groupe d’Etudes et de Physiologie Spatiales (GEMPS), (the precursor of MEDES).

​1989, founding of MEDES

MEDES, was founded in 1989, with its current legal status, by Yvon Lemarié, Director General of the Toulouse hospitals and Jacques Louis Lions, President of CNES, to take care of the European crews of the Hermes programme in Toulouse and Kourou.

However, the termination of the Hermes programme modified the initial objectives and MEDES was then assigned its current missions of:

  • developing competence in space medicine and physiology in Europe,
  • accelerating health innovations thanks to space research.

Since then, in cooperation with its members, MEDES has supported space exploration, while also engaging in space environment simulation and numerous research and development activities. The aim is to deploy health care innovations benefitting both future space missions and ordinary people, in particular for applications such as e-health services, or leading to the development of new biomedical technologies or applications. One example is the implementation of a telemedicine network in French Guiana, which currently involves 19 equipped health centres and 10 medical disciplines. MEDES is also working on the links between the environment and health, with particular emphasis on research into ageing and personalised medicine.

Finally, MEDES is also developing so-called ‘life support technologies’ (for maintaining a healthy environment in an enclosed habitat), in particular for microbial environmental control.

1996, creation of the Space Clinic

In order to ensure a suitable infrastructure for its weightlessness simulation activities, MEDES was granted the right to build the Space Clinic on the campus of the Rangueil University Hospital, with the support of the Midi Pyrenees region, the City of Toulouse, the Département of Haute Garonne and the State represented by CNES. This unique infrastructure, the first of its kind on a University Hospital campus, was inaugurated in 1996.

MEDES is recognised worldwide for its research and has carried out numerous international studies in cooperation with CNES and the European Space Agency, but also with NASA, the Japanese Space Agency JAXA, the Canadian Space Agency and Russian teams.

​2006, deployment of teams seconded to CNES and ESA to support space exploration

Since 2006, as part of cooperation agreements with CNES and the European Space Agency, MEDES has also sent teams to CADMOS (Centre d’Aide au Développement des Activités en Micropesanteur et des Opérations Spatiales), to prepare and monitor physiology experiments on board the ISS. It has also sent doctors to the EAC (European Astronaut Centre), where they monitor the health of astronauts during space missions.

MEDES is 30 years old (and counting!)

In 2019, MEDES celebrated its 30th anniversary. A special celebration of an adventure serving the health of both astronauts and ordinary people.

Thirty years after its founding, the Institute of Space Medicine and Physiology is widely recognised in Europe and abroad, for its monitoring of astronauts, benchmark clinical studies and medical innovations, among others.