of spaceflight on health. The 2001 IOM report Safe Passage8 addressed the issue of confidentiality of astronaut health data. That report indicated that medical information that is not part of a defined research protocol has been regarded by NASA as confidential, to be known only to the astronaut’s flight surgeon and the astronaut. One finding of that report was as follows:
Because of concerns about astronaut privacy, data and biological specimens that might ensure the health and safety of the astronaut corps for long-duration missions have not been analyzed. If these data and other data to be accumulated in the future are to be used to facilitate medical planning for the unique sets of pressures and extreme environments that astronauts will experience on long-duration space missions, the ethical concerns about astronaut privacy must be appropriately modified. (p. 177)
The report argued, and this committee concurs, that the emphasis on the privacy of astronaut health data has resulted in lost opportunities to advance the understanding of the risks to humans in the space environment. The IOM report recommended that NASA develop and use an occupational health model for the collection and analysis of astronaut health data. Under such a paradigm, the importance of understanding the risks of the space environment for future astronauts is at least as important as maintaining the confidentiality of individual medical information. The conclusion of the IOM committee was that the collection of individual medical data before, during, and after a mission should be expected by all astronauts who participate in space missions. Such an obligation is reasonable in return for the unique opportunity to travel in space as a representative of the United States. It is important that there be regular, planned analyses of these data to identify critical areas of research to enable future space exploration. The privacy of individual astronauts should be protected to the extent possible (e.g., by de-indentifying data as much as possible) but should not outweigh the need to understand the risks of long-duration space travel.
If there are legal concerns regarding the conclusion that participation in research that enables future space exploration should be part of the job of an astronaut, even if the confidentiality of the data generated cannot be ensured, NASA could bring the matter to the attention of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections (SACHRP) of the Department of Health and Human Services. The SACHRP provides expert advice and recommendations to the secretary and to the assistant secretary for health on issues and topics pertaining to or associated with the protection of human research subjects. Specific topics include, but are not limited to, special populations and populations in which there are individually identifiable samples, data, or information.9
• The success of future space exploration depends on life and physical sciences research being central to NASA’s exploration mission and being embraced throughout the agency as an essential translational step in the execution of space exploration missions.
• A successful life and physical sciences program will depend on research being an integral component of spaceflight operations and on astronauts’ participation in these endeavors being viewed as a component of each mission.
• The collection and analysis of a broad array of physiological and psychological data from astronauts before, during, and after a mission are necessary for advancing knowledge of the effects of the space environment on human health and for improving the safety of human space exploration. If there are legal concerns about implementing this approach, they could be addressed by the Department of Health and Human Services SACHRP.
A renewed funding base for fundamental and applied life and physical sciences research is essential for attracting the scientific community that is needed to meet prioritized research objectives. Researchers must have a reasonable level of confidence in the sustainability of research funding, if they are expected to direct their laboratories, staff, and students on research issues relevant to space exploration. Given the time frame required