Research and innovation have been part of the Mayo Clinic Aerospace Medicine culture since its inception in the 1930s. Mayo Clinic physiologists and altitude scientists developed several items vital to military pilot safety in the World War II era. Before pressurized aircraft cabins for commercial airline passenger flights, aircraft flew at relatively low altitudes to avoid low-oxygen conditions. Our scientists developed an oxygen mask for pilots and passengers to wear during flights, allowing travel at higher altitudes above turbulent weather conditions. This made flights smoother and more tolerable to travelers.

A variety of other inventions and research developments produced by Mayo Clinic researchers were instrumental in the war effort and in promoting aviation safety for decades to come.

Today, Mayo physicians and researchers are investigating innovative tools designed to detect and combat spacial disorientation, vestibular abnormalities, and new oxygen delivery systems. These systems are to be installed in aircraft being developed by major manufacturers.

Other studies focus on human adaptation at high altitudes and remote locations. This work may help to reduce the effects of altitude sickness and allow safe air travel at altitudes greater than 40,000 feet (12,100 meters). These are called thin-air flights.

Mayo Clinic aerospace researchers are advancing various projects applicable to high-altitude aviation as well as programs for space travel. These include: