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Assessment of Programs in Space Biology and Medicine 1991 9 Conclusions As pointed out in the Goldberg Strategy, space biology and medicine is in the earliest stage of discipline development. Relatively few experiments have been flown; most have not been part of a larger research strategy; and few have been well controlled or replicated. Nevertheless, 25 years of observations carried out in space leave little doubt that the microgravity of space results in significant alterations not only in the physiology of organisms but also in the function of individual cells. Some of these changes are potentially life-threatening. Hence, a major concern of research in space biology and medicine is to guarantee the health and safety of the humans who undertake missions in space. The health and safety issue requires some clinical research that ideally should be conducted in ground-based laboratories as well as in the microgravity environment of space. However, most of the required research could be classified as basic. Instead of developing protocols to treat or mask the various biological changes that occur during spaceflight, a short-term expedient, the CSBM feels strongly that the basic mechanisms underlying microgravity-induced changes must be understood. Studies of the basic mechanisms underlying overt clinical changes seen in spaceflight should have the first priority in any relevant research strategy. The preceding chapters illustrate that NASA has made an effort to implement parts of the research strategies provided by the Space Studies Board. However, progress has been painfully slow, and it appears that considerable hope remains for a "quick fix." This hoped for success seems doomed to failure. To succeed, both the increase in funding and the marshalling of expertise will have to be exceptional, in amount and alacrity. Most of the Goldberg Strategy, as well as recommendations from other reports, remains valid and awaits implementation. What is required is a commitment to a long-term, sustained effort to understand the nature of the effects of microgravity on living processes at several levels. There have been and remain two major limitations to implementation of the research strategies previously published. The first is an adequate

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commitment of resources to space biology and medical research. The proportion of the life sciences budget that has been dedicated to research has been less than the support necessary to support a single moderate-sized department in a major research-oriented university. In view of the enormous breadth of basic and clinical research that must be carried out in the life sciences to ensure the future of human presence in space, the lack of a serious commitment to the life sciences program is not commensurate with agency plans for future human space exploration. If the nation and NASA are committed to a program of human exploration, a substantial infusion of funds is a prerequisite for success. Part of the funds should be used to enhance ground-based research, not only in areas concerned with human physiology, but especially in research areas concerned with human behavior. A concerted national effort in these areas will require not only NASA participation but also that of other major federal agencies concerned with biological research. However, even if a considerable infusion of funds into the space biology and medicine program were to occur, it is not clear that NASA has or should have the personnel or facilities to take full advantage of these additional funds. Thus the committee's recommendation that NASA initiate increased interaction with other federal agencies concerned with research in basic biology and medicine becomes paramount. Specifically, the Committee on Space Biology and Medicine suggests that the Nation direct the relevant federal agencies (i.e., NIH, NSF, USDA) to encourage investigators to undertake ground-based research programs concerned with the major research topics related to the health and welfare of humans in space. This includes research topics not only in human physiology and behavior but also more basic research in areas such as developmental biology and the ability of plants to grow and reproduce in a microgravity environment. NASA could play a primary role in designing and implementing experiments that confirm and enhance models derived from the ground-based basic research. The second major impediment to progress has been the lack of access to space. This is an obvious and generic problem common to all the space research disciplines. It must be emphasized that since 1985, no space missions have been flown that were dedicated to research in space biology and medicine, and relatively few are planned prior to the projected completion of Space Station. Considering that the discipline was in its infancy at the time the Goldberg Strategy was published, it is likely to remain so until the Space Station becomes fully functional. In this sense, the provision of more research space on Shuttle flights and the utilization of retrievable satellites for basic research in space biology and medicine (LifeSat) are imperatives in the interim until construction of Space Station Freedom is completed. Related to this, maximizing the design and utility of the Space Station for research in space biology and medicine should receive highest priority. Specifically, there should be a dedicated life sciences laboratory on space station (not shared with other disciplines) and research on space biology and medicine

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of the space station should be divided into 3- to 6-month blocks with each block devoted to a single research area, e.g., bone and muscle physiology. The latter recommendation is especially important. As discussed in previous sections, research in space biology and medicine is empirical. Scientists in ground-based laboratories design experiments that are frequently modified as results are obtained and new technologies develop. This flexibility is particularly pertinent when one considers that most experiments in the queue for flight in the 1990s were designed in the late 1970s. Current technical approaches employing the most recent and rapid advances in molecular biology were almost nonexistent at that time. Simple observations related to the rhythms of biological changes were also less clear at that time, e.g., hormone levels change as a function of the time of day. Yet, studies manifested on an upcoming Shuttle mission (SLS1) will investigate hormonal changes in blood samples taken at a single time point. (See Chapter 4, section on circadian rhythms, and Chapter 3, section on cardiovascular hormones and stress, for a further discussion of this issue.) These kinds of problems can be circumvented with a dedicated block of time in a dedicated research facility in which constant and rapid change in experimental design can be accomplished. The final point of major concern to the CSBM is the acquisition, handling, and dispersal of data obtained from both ground-based and space research. To date there is no centralized data base on results from previous experiments, nor do there appear to be plans to create one. Thus, the current data base, albeit meager, is not readily available to investigators who might wish to design new experiments. The result of this deficiency is to severely restrict access to the research program in space biology and medicine. At the minimum, existing data should be summarized in peer-reviewed journals readily available to any investigator who wishes to initiate a research program in space biology and medicine. As was mentioned in Chapter 2 regarding data management, the CSBM has been informed that plans and discussions are under way at NASA to establish a data and flight specimen archive following the SLS-1 mission. The committee encourages NASA to do so and to solicit continuing input and advice from this and other committees as the system becomes more well defined. Ultimately, progress toward implementation of the research strategies in space biology and medicine will require a complete .reassessment of the approaches currently in place not only within NASA but by the nation. Otherwise, as stressed in the Goldberg Strategy, "based on what we know today, the assumption of continued success of missions involving the sustained presence of humans in space for months to years at a time cannot be rigorously defended."