Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Research to Help Humans in Space

Health problems associated with space travel may be related to the effects of microgravity, radiation, or to toxic environmental exposure or trauma. Complex interactions between these factors, as well as potential differences in the way disorders present and respond in microgravity relative to Earth, pose formidable challenges.

Since unique medical circumstances can occur in space and with limited healthcare resources novel strategies are required for in-flight physiological monitoring and medical assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

NSBRI funded by NASA a consortium of institutions studying the health risks related to long duration spaceflights is developing medical technologies needed for long missions. On July 30, 2012, NSBRI and NASA’s Human Research Program began soliciting proposals for six of their seven research teams. One of the NSBRI team’s topics ready for research involves “Smart Medical Systems and Technology”.

The “Smart Medical Systems and Technology (SMST) Team is leading the research and development for advanced, integrated and autonomous systems needed for astronaut health assessment, and maintenance of health. These systems must be small, use low-power, noninvasive, versatile, and highly automated.

Possible technologies needed include ultrasound diagnostics and therapeutics, lab-on-a-chip systems, patient and health physiologic monitors, and automated systems and devices to aid in decision-making, training, and diagnosis. For more information, go to

Another NSBRI research topic “Neurobehavioral and Psychosocial Factors” deals with methods needed for crews to use to deal with stress, isolation, confinement, and the challenges of long-duration space missions.

Team objectives include developing methods to monitor cognitive function, behavior, and countermeasures to enhance performance, motivation and quality of life. Also, leadership style, crew composition and cohesion, organization, and adequate communication are being investigated to optimize crew effectiveness and mission success. For more information, go to

Other NSBRI team research areas include cardiovascular alterations, human factors and performance, musculoskeletal alterations, and sensorimotor adaption.

Depending on available funding, up to seven research investigations will be selected by NASA. It is anticipated that NASA awards will average $350,000 per year but not exceed $400,000 per year. There are two steps to the proposals. Step 1 is due September 4, 2012, and if asked to submit Step 2, proposals are due December 3, 2012.

All categories of U.S. institutions are eligible to submit proposals in response to this NASA Research Announcement. Principal Investigators may collaborate with universities, Federal government laboratories, the private sector, and state and local government laboratories.

Go to to view the NASA Research Announcement NNJ12ZSA002N entitled “Research and Technology Development to Support Crew Health and Performance in Space Exploration Missions”.  Or go to NASA Research Opportunities homepage at and then link to Solicitations.