This section provides an overview of the problems facing all areas of systems physiology on the ISS, and the subsequent sections provide information on specific disciplines (cardiopulmonary physiology, muscle and bone physiology, radiation biology, and behavior and performance).
Several programs at NASA and at other agencies administer efforts relevant to systems physiology:
NASA Research Announcement (NRA) program, a NASA program of competitive peer reviewed research that funds both intramural and extramural investigators;
National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI), an extramural independent program focused on countermeasure development;
Countermeasure Evaluation and Validation Program (CEVP), a NASA program for validating new countermeasures;
Flight medicine, an intramural NASA program that prescribes countermeasures and makes ongoing measurements; in addition, flight medicine programs for individual nations can specify countermeasure programs for their astronauts (Ohshima et al., 2002);
Russian biomedical research program, an independent Russian effort to study physiology and develop countermeasures;
European Space Agency projects, ESA-sponsored experiments participated in by European astronauts who fly on the Soyuz to the ISS on taxi flights; and
Individually sponsored projects. Mark Shuttleworth, who flew as a space tourist, brought along his own suite of experiments from South African researchers. This approach would appear to be open to others who fly via this route.
NASA’s NRA program tends to focus on studies of basic mechanisms but includes countermeasure studies as well. The NSBRI program is chartered to develop countermeasures, and the CEVP is designed to validate countermeasures. The flight medicine program provides the ongoing monitoring of crew members and prescribes countermeasures. A summary of the current efforts in system physiology appears in Appendix F.
Table 3.1, taken from the NASA Flight Equipment Experiments Information Package, shows what equipment was offered to potential investigators for use on the ISS (ISLSWG, 2001). The ESA-supplied equipment will be available on the ISS when the Columbus module arrives at the ISS. The U.S.-supplied equipment will be in place once both racks of the Human Research Facility (HRF) are installed. The first rack is already installed; the second, and final, rack of the HRF is scheduled for installation in January 2003. When the Columbus module and HRF are installed, the hardware that had been promised to human investigators will be in place. But it represents only a subset of what was available in the past on Spacelab flights, which contained not only the basic equipment for human physiology research (blood-pressure devices, gas analyzers, etc.) but also an animal habitat that is not present on the ISS. The main piece of equipment that would represent a major advance over Spacelab, the 1-g centrifuge, has been significantly delayed, and its future is uncertain.