A new crew recently arrived on the International Space Station (ISS), ready to begin a six-month lifetime in orbit. During their stay, Crew-7 will work on scientific investigations, including a new set of experiments on the effects of spaceflight on the human body over time, information that could be crucial to future human missions to the Moon and beyond. .
The crew consists of NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa and Roscosmos cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov.
The launch was scheduled for Friday, August 25, but was pushed back about 24 hours for an additional safety review of the valves in the Dragon’s environmental control and life support system. All valves were found to be working normally, and NASA emphasized that the additional checks were a safety measure.
A new set of experiments on the effects of spaceflight on the human body over time
With that review complete, the crew was able to lift off on Saturday, August 26, and arrived at the ISS on the morning of Sunday, August 27, joining four Crew-6 astronauts plus three crew members who traveled on a Russian spacecraft. Soyuz.
While on the ISS, Crew-7 astronauts will work in a variety of experiments, including several on the subject of human health in spaceflight. This includes a new program called the Integrated Protocols Add-on for Human Exploration Research in Varied Mission Durations, or CODEa set of 14 different experiments that aim to examine how spaceflight changes the human body as a function of duration.
CIPHER’s idea is to take data from up to 30 astronauts who spend different periods of time on the space station. The researchers collect data from the participants before launch, during their stay on the station, and once they return to Earth, giving them insight into how the body changes over time.
Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images
“A big part of this is understanding the impact of duration on the body as a whole. This is actually a huge knowledge gap for us,” she explained to Kristin Fabre, deputy chief scientist for NASA’s Human Research Program. The edge.
A standard rotation on the ISS is six months, while some astronauts have done it for up to a year. But for missions to the Moon and Mars, more information is needed about the long-term effects of spaceflight on the human body. The research team hopes to be able to run CIPHER all the way to the end of the ISS, collecting more and more data.
“A big part of this is understanding the impact of duration on the body as a whole”
The experiments include taking data on bone strength, eye health, cardiovascular function and muscle atrophy, all of which are known to be affected by time in space.
The ISS is particularly useful for such studies because of its microgravity environment, which is what astronauts would have to deal with on their journeys beyond Earth. The Moon has very low gravity, about one sixth of Earth’s gravity, and on Mars, gravity is about one third that of Earth. Low gravity causes effects such as fluid accumulation in the upper half of the body.
“We look at the International Space Station or low Earth orbit as a fantastic analogue or environment to study microgravity in particular. For CIPHER, we’re really trying to address a very specific danger to the type of research we’re doing. That is something unique that the ISS can offer”, affirmed Fabre.
Some health effects of long-duration space missions can also be modeled using simulations performed here on Earth, called ground analog. NASA Crew Health and Performance Scan Analog, or CHAPEA studioFor example, he is investigating the health effects of factors such as a limited diet in a team of volunteers who will spend a year in a simulated Mars environment.
However, other factors in space exploration cannot be modelled, such as radiation exposure and certain psychological aspects of isolation and confinement. Therefore, the focus of much of the research on human health in spaceflight is to take what we know from decades of experience on the ISS and find ways to apply it to missions beyond low-Earth orbit.
“A fantastic analog or environment to study microgravity”
For example, muscle loss is a major problem in space, which is why the ISS currently has an exercise system called ARED, or Advanced Resistive Exercise Device. “And that seems to be really great for bone and muscle health,” Fabre said. “But we’re not going to be able to put that on Orion or Gateway. So how do we take those learnings and miniaturize them to make them more appropriate for these exploration missions?
The CIPHER experiments will include Crew-7 as participants, though NASA is not sharing which astronauts will participate to protect their medical privacy, as the data will eventually become public. The researchers wait until they have data from at least five crew members before sharing information publicly, so the data isn’t attributable that way either.
So it may take several years for the CIPHER data to be publicly available, but it should help lay the groundwork for keeping humans safe when we travel beyond Earth and to other planets.
“We’re really going to need to understand duration and time in space and what that does to the human body before we can make any reliable recommendations for crew health on Mars,” Fabre said. “So CIPHER is designed to take us there.”