Over three decades in charge of Australia’s Antarctic medical program will come to an end today when Dr Des Lugg leaves the Australian Antarctic Division to take up a prestigious position with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Robert Hill, paid tribute today to Dr Lugg for his distinguished career with the Australian Antarctic Division and wished him well in his new career with NASA.

“Dr Lugg’s contribution to Antarctic medicine is unsurpassed, meeting the continuing challenges presented by Antarctic isolation and natural conditions as well as the changing demands of new technology, new programs and new social conditions,” Senator Hill said.

Dr Lugg began his Antarctic career in 1962 with a posting to Davis as station medical officer. He became head of polar medicine at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) in 1968, a position he has held until now.

He was awarded the Polar Medal in 1969 and became a Member of the Order of Australia in 1984.

Dr Lugg considers the great advances in communications technology and the social changes to Antarctic expeditions, notably the increasing numbers of women travelling south, as the major developments during his time with the AAD.

“Despite the improved communications enabling better “tele-medicine”, Antarctica is as difficult and dangerous a place today as it was in the time of Scott and Mawson,” Dr Lugg said.

For the past 10 years the focus of Dr Lugg’s research has been on the analogy between living in Antarctica and long duration space flight, a link which he will be able to develop in his new work with NASA.

Initially Dr Lugg will take up a Visiting Professorship at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) and be based in Texas, before moving to NASA Headquarters in Washington DC as Chief, Medicine of Extreme Environments.