In the 1990s, a photo taken by the probe Voyager showed the Earth as a small island right in the middle of an infinite black ocean 6 billion kilometres away. A ‘Blue Marble’ turned into a ‘Pale Blue Dot’ and initiated a public discourse about a sustainable handling of our resources. Therefore, ‘Blue Dot – Shaping the Future’ became the title of the mission of Alexander Gerst’s space flight. From 28 May to 10 November 10, 2014 the ESA Astronaut fascinated the German public with his live-impressions from the International Space Station (ISS). Simultaneously, the project ‘Columbus Eye – Live-Imagery from the ISS in Schools’ established a learning portal on earth observation from the ISS (www.columbuseye.uni-bonn.de). The portal makes use of NASA’s High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment which features four cameras observing the earth 24/7. Columbus Eye is carried out at the University of Bonn and sponsored by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Space Administration. The main goal of Columbus Eye is to enable children to observe our planet from the astronaut’s perspective while applying professional remote sensing analysis tools. During the IAC 2014, we published a concept on how the fascination of technology and environment should be bundled in order to ignite the pupil’s interest on spaceflight and earth observation. Following up on this, in 2015 we are proud to present the implementations of this concept: the HDEV archive and, even more important, the observatory. While the archive provides spectacular footage of e.g. the Mediterranean Sea, the Himalaya, and sunrises available for everybody, the observatory was specifically constructed for pupils and teachers. Here, it is possible to learn about processes and phenomena of the coupled human- environment system in an interactive manner. The pupils can conduct easy-to-use image processing analyses on their own. In doing so, they get the opportunity to derive a map out of an HDEV image and hence turn a continuous spatial texture into a discrete spatial pattern of land uses. The presentation explains how teachers can be taught to apply the Columbus Eye learning tools in their everyday school lessons. Additionally, we present the next mission of the project: HDEV videos will be edited in order to perceive them in virtual reality. Witnessing geospatial analysis turns into experience and enters our understanding.
Research Containing: Astronaut
INTRODUCTION: Postflight postural ataxia reflects both the control strategies adopted for movement in microgravity and the direct effects of deconditioning. Computerized dynamic posturography (CDP) has been used during the first decade of the International Space Station (ISS) expeditions to quantify the initial postflight decrements and recovery of postural stability. METHODS: The CDP data were obtained on 37 crewmembers as part of their pre- and postflight medical examinations. Sensory organization tests evaluated the ability to make effective use of (or suppress inappropriate) visual, vestibular, and somatosensory information for balance control. This report focuses on eyes closed conditions with either a fixed or sway-referenced base of support, with the head erect or during pitch-head tilts (+/- 20 degrees at 0.33 Hz). Equilibrium scores were derived from peak-to-peak anterior-posterior sway. Motor-control tests were also used to evaluate a crewmember’s ability to automatically recover from unexpected support-surface perturbations. RESULTS: The standard Romberg condition was the least sensitive. Dynamic head tilts led to increased incidence of falls and revealed significantly longer recovery than head-erect conditions. Improvements in postflight postural performance during the later expeditions may be attributable to higher preflight baselines and/or advanced exercise capabilities aboard the ISS. CONCLUSIONS: The diagnostic assessment of postural instability is more pronounced during unstable-support conditions requiring active head movements. In addition to supporting return-to-duty decisions by flight surgeons, the CDP provides a standardized sensorimotor measure that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of countermeasures designed to either minimize deconditioning on orbit or promote reconditioning upon return to Earth.
The environment on the International Space Station (ISS) includes a variety of potential physiologic stressors, including low gravity, elevated exposure to radiation, confined living and working quarters, a heavy workload, and high public visibility. This retrospective study examined medication use during long-duration spaceflights (>30 d). Medication records from 24 crewmembers on 20 missions longer than 30 d over a 10 yr period were examined for trends in usage rates, efficacy, and indication, as well as adverse event quality, frequency, and severity. Results were compared with those from crewmembers on shorter space shuttle missions (>16 d) and other reports of medication use by healthy adults. The most frequently used medications on the ISS were for sleep problems, pain, congestion, or allergy. Medication use during spaceflight missions was similar to that noted on the Space Shuttle and in adult ambulatory medicine, except that usage of sleep aids was about 10 times higher during spaceflight missions. There were also 2 apparent treatment failures in cases of skin rash, raising questions about the efficacy or suitability of the treatments used. Many spaceflight-related medication uses (at least 10%) were linked to extravehicular activities, exercise protocols, or equipment and operationally driven schedule changes. It seems likely that alterations in spaceflight mission operations (schedule-shifting and lighting) or hardware (extravehicular activity suits and exercise equipment) could reduce the need for a sizable fraction of medication uses.
Bone loss and renal stone risk are longstanding concerns for astronauts. Bone resorption brought on by spaceflight elevates urinary calcium and the risk of renal stone formation. Loss of bone calcium leads to concerns about fracture risk and increased long-term risk of osteoporosis. Bone metabolism involves many factors and is interconnected with muscle metabolism and diet. We report here bone biochemistry and renal stone risk data from astronauts on 4- to 6-month International Space Station missions. All had access to a type of resistive exercise countermeasure hardware, either the Advanced Resistance Exercise Device (ARED) or the Interim Resistance Exercise Device (iRED). A subset of the ARED group also tested the bisphosphonate alendronate as a potential anti-resorptive countermeasure (Bis+ARED). While some of the basic bone marker data have been published, we provide here a more comprehensive evaluation of bone biochemistry with a larger group of astronauts. Regardless of exercise, the risk of renal stone formation increased during spaceflight. A key factor in this increase was urine volume, which was lower during flight in all groups at all time points. Thus, the easiest way to mitigate renal stone risk is to increase fluid consumption. ARED use increased bone formation without changing bone resorption, and mitigated a drop in parathyroid hormone in iRED astronauts. Sclerostin, an osteocyte-derived negative regulator of bone formation, increased 10-15% in both groups of astronauts who used the ARED (p<0.06). IGF-1, which regulates bone growth and formation, increased during flight in all 3 groups (p<0.001). Our results are consistent with the growing body of literature showing that the hyper-resorptive state of bone that is brought on by spaceflight can be countered pharmacologically or mitigated through an exercise-induced increase in bone formation, with nutritional support. Key questions remain about the effect of exercise-induced alterations in bone metabolism on bone strength and fracture risk.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient for muscle, cardiovascular, and bone health on Earth, and during space flight. We sought to evaluate magnesium status in 43 astronauts (34 male, 9 female; 47 +/- 5 years old, mean +/- SD) before, during, and after 4-6-month space missions. We also studied individuals participating in a ground analog of space flight (head-down-tilt bed rest; n = 27 (17 male, 10 female), 35 +/- 7 years old). We evaluated serum concentration and 24-h urinary excretion of magnesium, along with estimates of tissue magnesium status from sublingual cells. Serum magnesium increased late in flight, while urinary magnesium excretion was higher over the course of 180-day space missions. Urinary magnesium increased during flight but decreased significantly at landing. Neither serum nor urinary magnesium changed during bed rest. For flight and bed rest, significant correlations existed between the area under the curve of serum and urinary magnesium and the change in total body bone mineral content. Tissue magnesium concentration was unchanged after flight and bed rest. Increased excretion of magnesium is likely partially from bone and partially from diet, but importantly, it does not come at the expense of muscle tissue stores. While further study is needed to better understand the implications of these findings for longer space exploration missions, magnesium homeostasis and tissue status seem well maintained during 4-6-month space missions.
Selective weighting of cutaneous receptor feedback and associated balance impairments following short duration space flight
The present study investigated the perception of low frequency (3 Hz) vibration on the foot sole and its relationship to standing balance following short duration space flight in nine astronauts. Both 3 Hz vibration perception threshold (VPT) and standing balance measures increased on landing day compared to pre-flight. Contrary to our hypothesis, a positive linear relationship between these measures was not observed; however astronauts with the most sensitive skin (lowest 3 Hz VPT) were found to have the largest sway on landing day. While the change in foot sole sensitivity does not appear to directly relate to standing balance control, an exploratory strategy may be employed by astronauts whose threshold to pressure information is lower. Understanding sensory adaptations and balance control has implications to improve balance control strategies following space flight and in sensory impaired populations on earth.
Comprehensive analysis of the skin fungal microbiota of astronauts during a half-year stay at the International Space Station
The International Space Station (ISS) is a huge manned construct located approximately 400 km above the earth and is inhabited by astronauts performing space experiments. Because the station is within a closed microgravity environment, the astronauts are subject to consistent stress. This study analyzed the temporal changes in the skin fungal microbiota of 10 astronauts using pyrosequencing and quantitative PCR assay before, during, and after their stay in the ISS. Lipophilic skin fungi, Malassezia predominated most samples regardless of the collection period, body site (cheek or chest), or subject. During their stay in the ISS, the level of Malassezia colonization changed by 7.6- +/- 7.5-fold (mean +/- standard deviation) and 9.5- +/- 24.2-fold in cheek and chest samples, respectively. At the species level, M. restricta, M. globosa, and M. sympodialis were more abundant. In the chest samples, the ratio of M. restricta to all Malassezia species increased, whereas it did not change considerably in cheek samples. Fungal diversity was reduced, and the ratio of Malassezia to all fungal colonization increased during the astronauts’ stay at the ISS. The ascomycetous yeast Cyberlindnera jadinii was detected in abundance in the in-flight sample of 5 of the 10 astronauts. The microorganism may have incidentally adhered to the skin during the preflight period and persisted on the skin thereafter. This observation suggests the ability of a specific or uncommon microorganism to proliferate in a closed environment. Our study is the first to reveal temporal changes in the skin fungal microbiota of ISS astronauts. These findings will provide information useful for maintaining the health of astronauts staying in the space environment for long periods and for preventing infection due to the human skin microbiota.
Characteristics of local human skeleton responses to microgravity and drug treatment for osteoporosis in clinic
Analysis of the results of long term investigations of bones in cosmonauts on board Mir orbital sta tion(OS) and International Space Station (ISS) (n = 80) was performed. Theoretically predicted (evolution ary predefined) change in mass of different skeleton bones was found to be correlated (r = 0.904) with the position relative to Earth’s gravity vector. Vector dependence of bone loss results from local specificity of expression of bone metabolism genes, which reflects mechanical prehistory of skeleton structures in the evo lution of Homo erectus. Genetic polymorphism is accountable for high individual variability of bone loss, which is attested by the dependence of bone loss rate on polymorphism of certain genetic markers of bone metabolism. The type of the orbital vehicle did not affect the individual specific stability of the bone loss ratio in different segments of the skeleton. This fact is considered as a phenotype fingerprint of local metabolism in the form of a locus specific spatial structure of distribution of non collagen proteins responsible for posi tion regulation of endosteal metabolism. Drug treatment of osteoporosis (n = 107) evidences that recovery rate depends on bone location; the most likely reason is different effectiveness of local osteotropic interven tion into areas of bustling resorption.
Intrinsic cardiovascular autonomic regulatory system of astronauts exposed long-term to microgravity in space: observational study
The fractal scaling of the long-term heart rate variability (HRV) reflects the ‘intrinsic’ autonomic regulatory system. Herein, we examine how microgravity on the ISS affected the power-law scaling β (beta) of astronauts during a long-duration (about 6 months) spaceflight. Ambulatory electrocardiographic (ECG) monitoring was performed on seven healthy astronauts (5 men, 52.0 ± 4.2 years of age) five times: before launch, 24 ± 5 (F01) and 73 ± 5 (F02) days after launch, 15 ± 5 days before return (F03), and after return to Earth. The power-law scaling β was calculated as the slope of the regression line of the power density of the MEM spectrum versus frequency plotted on a log10–log10 scale in the range of 0.0001–0.01 Hz (corresponding to periods of 2.8 h to 1.6 min). β was less negative in space (−0.949 ± 0.061) than on Earth (−1.163 ± 0.075; P o 0.025). The difference was more pronounced during the awake than during the rest/sleep span. The circadian amplitude and acrophase (phase of maximum) of β did not differ in space as compared with Earth. An effect of microgravity was detected within 1 month (F01) in space and continued throughout the spaceflight. The intrinsic autonomic regulatory system that protects life under serious environmental conditions on Earth is altered in the microgravity environment, with no change over the 6-month spaceflight. It is thus important to find a way to improve conditions in space and/or in terms of human physiology, not to compromise the intrinsic autonomic regulatory system now that;plans are being made to inhabit another planet in the near future.
Abstract: Hackney, KJ, Scott, JM, Hanson, AM, English, KL, Downs, ME, and Ploutz-Snyder, LL. The astronaut-athlete: optimizing human performance in space. J Strength Cond Res 29(12): 3531–3545, 2015—It is well known that long-duration spaceflight results in deconditioning of neuromuscular and cardiovascular systems, leading to a decline in physical fitness. On reloading in gravitational environments, reduced fitness (e.g., aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and endurance) could impair human performance, mission success, and crew safety. The level of fitness necessary for the performance of routine and off-nominal terrestrial mission tasks remains an unanswered and pressing question for scientists and flight physicians. To mitigate fitness loss during spaceflight, resistance and aerobic exercise are the most effective countermeasure available to astronauts. Currently, 2.5 h·d−1, 6–7 d·wk−1 is allotted in crew schedules for exercise to be performed on highly specialized hardware on the International Space Station (ISS). Exercise hardware provides up to 273 kg of loading capability for resistance exercise, treadmill speeds between 0.44 and 5.5 m·s−1, and cycle workloads from 0 and 350 W. Compared to ISS missions, future missions beyond low earth orbit will likely be accomplished with less vehicle volume and power allocated for exercise hardware. Concomitant factors, such as diet and age, will also affect the physiologic responses to exercise training (e.g., anabolic resistance) in the space environment. Research into the potential optimization of exercise countermeasures through use of dietary supplementation, and pharmaceuticals may assist in reducing physiological deconditioning during long-duration spaceflight and have the potential to enhance performance of occupationally related astronaut tasks (e.g., extravehicular activity, habitat construction, equipment repairs, planetary exploration, and emergency response).