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An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs
Scheduled periodic reviews of the ISS utilization plan with a broad group of stakeholders (internal and external, scientific and operations) to ensure that the plan remains appropriate and that it promotes an integrated approach to attaining the ultimate program goals;
Long-duration experiments designed and conducted on the ISS to characterize temporal muscle atrophy and bone loss in the spacecraft environment;
Evaluation of restoration of the animal habitat and glove box for muscle and bone studies, and of the utility of the animal centrifuge as a unique fractional gravity research tool and a potential countermeasure in the context of a martian outpost scenario;
Critical analysis of both disaggregated and aggregated data (such as the data in the Longitudinal Study of Astronaut Health and the Life Sciences Data Archive32) to derive confidence bands for medical risks;
Development of ground-based programs focused on understanding the effects of high-energy radiation (similar to that present in deep space) on whole-animal physiology and survival, as well as development of countermeasures or shielding protocols for protection of astronauts against these lethal effects;
Additional hypothesis-driven, long-duration research on the ISS to refine confidence bands such that a reasonable statistical likelihood exists that the crew members’ adaptation during a long-duration mission will fall within a clinically acceptable range;
Research into predictors of individual response on the ISS or during extended-duration spaceflight to allow individual tailoring of countermeasures;
Use of previous recommendations (e.g., those of the Institute of Medicine bioastronautics roadmap committee33) to sequence additional needed experiments and to address in a timely fashion those critical issues that could be important for the design of architectures for future missions;
Research or testing necessary to ensure fire safety at the design level and to mitigate the risks associated with fire safety for exploration missions; and
Studies relevant to multiphase flow and heat transfer systems operating in microgravity environments, e.g., the motion of films and fluid particles at interfaces.
The one area where the ISS is absolutely critical is in providing a laboratory where the effects of fractional gravity can be studied in animals, and eventually in humans. As suggested in past NRC reports, it is therefore critical that equipment that can create fractional gravity environments (e.g., a centrifuge) be reinstated in NASA’s plan and budget for future missions.
Institute of Medicine, Safe Passage: Astronaut Care for Exploration Missions, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001, p. 3.
Institute of Medicine, A Risk Reduction Strategy for Human Exploration of Space: A Review of NASA’s Bioastronautics Roadmap, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2006.