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Assessment of Programs in Space Biology and Medicine 1991 1 Introduction AREAS/DISCIPLINES OF ADVISORY RESPONSIBILITY Space biology and medicine studies how individual organisms and small groups of organisms respond to the microgravity of space and how they adapt to it. It has been clear for sometime that when humans go into space, many changes occur in their physiology. Several studies have also indicated that basic biological processes are altered in microgravity. It is not likely that the processes are separable. Human physiology is predicated on the homeostatic functioning of organs that are composed of cells. All of these complex functioning systems have evolved in the presence of gravity, and when exposed to microgravity, they are forced to function in a new and novel environment. Thus, in attempting to understand the adaptation to microgravity, scientists are forced to evaluate not only the clinical manifestations of an organismal response to the new environment but also the underlying cellular and organ response. This requires an integrated approach that includes both basic research as well as the more operational aspects of clinical research. One approach to understanding adaptation to microgravity involves empirical research in which humans or appropriate animal models are subjected to the space environment for prolonged periods and are monitored continuously for signs of changes. This process might lead to putative countermeasures that may provide a "fix" for the problems encountered, but it is not likely to elucidate the basic mechanism(s) involved in the response to microgravity. A more appropriate research strategy is to study basic mechanisms and, based on the knowledge acquired, to design appropriate countermeasures. This is a longer- term process. In practice, both approaches require access to research facilities in space and on the ground. The Committee on Space Biology and Medicine (CSBM) and several of its predecessors have formulated comprehensive research strategies for understanding both basic and clinical aspects of adaptation to microgravity (see below). The Space Exploration Initiative (SEI), enunciated by the President in July 1989, envisions a sequential progression of human activities in space of
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many years' duration. This has placed increased emphasis on implementation of the appropriate research strategies. Ironically, since a small number of Soviet astronauts have survived in the microgravity environment of space in low earth orbit for as long as a year, the perception has developed that there are no major physiological or psychological problems likely to preclude longer-term human exploration beyond low earth orbit. The fallacy of that assumption has been documented in previous reports and the current document reaffirms that conclusion. The current report was undertaken to provide an up-to-date evaluation of the extent to which National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has implemented the various research strategies published over the past 10 years. Since 1963, various forms of the current CSBM have existed. The evolution of the advisory responsibilities and membership of the committee has reflected the times, paralleling the needs of NASA and the U.S. Space Program. Over this nearly 30-year period, the committee or its predecessors have issued, or contributed to, nearly 20 reports (see the bibliography) on space biology and medicine topics, some narrowly focused (e.g., Report of the Panel on Management of Spacecraft Solid and Liquid Wastes, SSB, 1969a), others covering the whole of space life sciences (Space Science in the Twenty-First Century: Life Sciences, SSB, 1988). Still other reports and official letter reports to NASA concern matters more of a policy or programmatic nature (Life Sciences in Space, SSB, 1970c; letter to Associate Administrator Stofan, NASA, regarding centrifuge, July 21, 1987; letter to Administrator Truly, NASA, regarding the extended duration orbiter medical program, December 20, 1989). This report limits its comments to information contained in the three most recent reports (SSB 1979, 1987, and 1988). The predecessor to the 1987 strategy report was Life Beyond the Earth's Environment (SSB, 1979). This report was not a formal Space Studies Board strategy per se. However, it covers virtually all of the major space biology and medicine disciplines and makes recommendations for conducting research in each of these fields. It addresses several areas not individually treated in the 1987 report, in particular, the effects of radiation on living organisms in space and closed ecological life support systems (CELSS). In 1988, SSB published the results of a three-year study that included individual task group reports for each major space science discipline, including life sciences (i.e., Space Science in the Twenty-First Century: Imperatives for the Decades 1995 to 2015). The Life Sciences Task Group report addresses all of space life sciences, including exobiology, global biology, CELSS, instrumentation and technological requirements, and space biology and medicine. The CSBM's advisory purview is limited to this report's recommendations in space biology and medicine, CELSS, and relevant instrumentation and technology requirements. A number of reports have been issued by the SSB's Committee on Data Management and Computation (CODMAC): Data Management and Computation—Volume l: Issues and Recommendations (SSB, 1982), Issues and Recommendations Associated With Distributed Computation and Data Management Systems for the Space Sciences (SSB, 1986), and Selected Issues
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in Space Science Data Management and Computation (SSB, 1988). CODMAC also assumed the responsibility for its recommendations concerning data issues in the life sciences. The most recent report of the CSBM was A Strategy for Space Biology and Medical Science for the 1980s and 1990s (SSB, 1987): Jay Goldberg, University of Chicago, chaired the CSBM that wrote the report. This report, hereafter referred to as the Goldberg Strategy, was transmitted to NASA in the spring of 1987. Since that time, over 3,500 copies have been distributed. The report is one of a number of scientific strategies that have been produced by SSB standing committees. It is meant to provide NASA with a guideline for developing its long-term mission plans and a rational, coherent research program in space biology and medicine. PRINCIPAL USERS/IMPLEMENTORS OF DATA ON SPACE BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE Within NASA While the primary audience of the CSBM reports that have been published is the Life Sciences Division at NASA, the nature of space biology and medicine requires that all of NASA be considered to be the "user" of their recommendations. The operational requirements of maintaining the health and safety of humans in space both in the past and in the future are the focus and responsibility of offices in NASA in addition to the Life Sciences Division and the Office of Space Science and Applications. This has been true from the days of Apollo to the present days of the Space Shuttle. As NASA and the nation proceed to plan for implementing the SEI, the need for a comprehensive agency-wide understanding of the integrated, critical issues associated with a soundly based space biology and medical research program will be even more crucial. Outside NASA One of the principal agencies outside of NASA that is a potential user of CSBM reports/recommendations is the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The committee encouraged collaborative efforts between NASA and NIH in the 1987 report. In this time of ever-increasing budgetary constraints, there is a need to maximize the scientific return from research in space biology and medicine. Collaborative activities between the two agencies to the fullest extent possible are strongly encouraged. The committee is aware that NASA has begun discussions with the Department of Agriculture (USDA) concerning collaborations on research related
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to the CELSS program, molecular research, and plant biology. This sort of collaboration has the potential of enhancing these programs, which have been constrained by NASA over the years because of other, competing funding priorities. The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds a significant amount of biological research that could have some relevance to the space program. Again, it is hoped that NSF and the community supported by NSF are cognizant of the recommendations and scientific issues raised in CSBM reports and that some cooperative/collaborative activities commence. Another potential user of CSBM's advice would be the Department of Defense (DOD). To date, the committee has had no interaction with the DOD and is not informed as to the extent of that department's needs or activities. However, given the major extent of DOD's space program both in the past and that anticipated for the future, it is the committee's opinion that identifying areas of mutual interest and concern to the civilian and military space programs would be beneficial to both sectors. With the National Space Council now in place, perhaps this could be accomplished more easily. To a somewhat lesser extent, NASA's human factors research would be of interest and complementary to certain activities of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA has the primary responsibility for implementing the 1988 Aviation Safety Research Act. Finally, the committee hopes that policy makers from both the executive and legislative branches of government are aware of their advice and recommendations and their underlying rationales, particularly if announced plans for the SEI proceed. PRINCIPAL RESEARCH STRATEGY This report was undertaken to provide an up-to-date evaluation of the extent to which NASA has implemented the various research recommendations made in its various published reports. Since the Goldberg Strategy represents the most recent and comprehensive evolution of a research strategy, the CSBM has paid particular attention to the experimental approaches recommended therein. This is justifiable for a second reason. The Goldberg Strategy was written and published during the hiatus in flight opportunities resulting from the Challenger disaster. In the interim, Shuttle flights have resumed, and a comprehensive manifest exists of planned flights for the next several years. In terms of the previous strategies, it becomes all the more important to determine to what extent NASA's future plans include recommendations in that report. It should be emphasized that the Goldberg Strategy and all previous reports referenced above deal with research strategies that assume a
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microgravity environment. Alternative strategies that involve the creation of an artificial gravity environment in space have not been dealt with and are not considered herein. The CSBM is aware of the need to address this specific issue (artificial gravity) in future deliberations. The Goldberg Strategy contains 11 chapters—including one on developmental biology, one on gravitropism in plants, seven concerned with human physiology, one on human behavior, and one concerned with policy and programmatic issues. In this report, recommendations on human physiology are discussed in one major chapter (Chapter 3) with subheadings. The section on gravitropism is incorporated into a chapter on plant biology (Chapter 6). This report also includes chapters on radiation biology (Chapter 8) and the CELSS program (7), which as mentioned earlier, were not part of the Goldberg Strategy, but were addressed in the 1988 and 1979 reports. Finally, recent developments in the area of cell biology are incorporated as a section in the chapter on developmental biology (Chapter 5).