16 studies on spaceflight’s impact on living organisms

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

The impact of intracranial pressure in astronauts, team task switching in astronaut crews, and habitable volume and space utilization are among the topics that will be investigated in 16 new research projects that will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS).

The chosen projects, revealed by NASA on Monday, are designed to help scientists learn more about how space travel affects living organisms. The US space agency said the research will help them develop the technology necessary to keep astronauts healthy in future missions designed to travel beyond low-Earth orbit and eventually to Mars.

The proposals were submitted as part of two coordinated research initiatives: the Human Research Program’s (HRP) ‘Human Exploration Research Opportunities – International Life Sciences Research Announcement’ and the Space Biology’s ‘Research Opportunities for Flight Experiments in Space Biology (ILSRA).’ Furthermore, to encourage global cooperation in space life sciences, projects were also solicited by agencies in Europe, Japan, and Canada.

“We selected these investigations expecting them to provide new knowledge that will lay a foundation that other researchers and engineers can build upon,” said NASA. “These studies will not only help us create countermeasures to the problems inherent in microgravity, but we also expect them to translate into new biological tools and applications on Earth.”

The 16 projects selected include the following:

  • Dr. Jeffery LePine, Arizona State University, “Understanding and Preventing Crew Member Task Entrainment”
  • Dr. Cheryl Nickerson, Arizona State University, “High Dimensional Biology to Understand the Functional Response of Salmonella to Long-Term Multigenerational Growth in the Chronic Stress of Microgravity”
  • Dr. Crystal Jaing, Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, “International Space Station Microbial Observatory of Pathogenic Virus, Bacteria, and Fungi (ISS-MOP) Project”
  • Dr. David Bloom, University Of Florida-Gainesville, “Effect of Spaceflight on Herpesvirus Genome Stability and Diversity”
  • Dr. Gioia Massa, NASA Kennedy Space Center, “Pick-and-Eat Salad-Crop Productivity, Nutritional Value, and Acceptability to Supplement the ISS Food System”
  • Prof. Leslie DeChurch, Georgia Tech Research Corporation, “Team Task Switching in Astronaut Crews on the International Space Station: Integrating Multiteam Membership, Multiteam Systems, Multitasking,& Multidimensional Networks to Monitor & Enable Functional Work Shifts in Astronaut Crew”
  • Dr. Fred Turek, Northwestern University-Evanston, “Effects of Spaceflight on Gastrointestinal Microbiota in Mice:  Mechanisms and Impact on Multi-System Physiology”
  • Dr. Alexander Robling, Indiana University, “Foundational in-vivo Experiments on Osteocyte Biology in Space”
  • Dr. Kevin Duda, Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc., “Wearable Kinematic Systems for Quantifying 3-D Space Utilization in the Microgravity Environment”
  • Dr. Michael Williams, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Inc., “Zero G and ICP: Invasive and Noninvasive ICP Monitoring of Astronauts on the ISS”
  • Dr. Scot Wolverton, Ohio Wesleyan University, “Characterizing Plant Gravity Perception Systems”
  • Dr. Russell Turner, Oregon State University, “Spaceflight-Induced Changes in Non-Shivering Thermogenesis and Effects on Bone in Mice”
  • Dr. Siva Vanapalli, Texas Tech University-Lubbock, “Determining Muscle Strength in Space-Flown Caenorhabditis elegans”
  • Dr. Grace Douglas, NASA Johnson Space Center, “The Integrated Impact of Diet on Human Immune Response, the Gut Microbiota, and Nutritional Status during Adaptation to Spaceflight”
  • Dr. Susana Zanello, Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, “Multimodal Modeling towards Noninvasive Assessment of Intracranial Pressure in Weightlessness and Biomarker Identification of Predisposition to VIIP Syndrome”
  • Prof. Norman Lewis, Washington State University-Pullman, “An Integrated Omics Guided Approach to Lignification and Gravitational Responses: The Final Frontier”

Each of the studies will work together to cover a wide range of different areas in laboratory and spaceflight environments. Dr. Wolverton’s project, for example, will explore how plants respond to microgravity while growing in space. In addition, Dr. Douglas will study the impact of dietary nutrition and immune response during space travel, and Dr. Robling will conduct a long duration study to find new therapeutic targets to prevent osteoporosis amongst astronauts.

“All of the selected projects will enter a flight-definition phase in which NASA will work with the investigators to enable the research to be conducted aboard the space station and in ground-based analog environments,” officials at the organization concluded.

Don’t worry, NASA. We already researched the effects of space on boners.


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