Gabriela Albandes de Souza
InnovaSpace Culture & Education Project Manager
InnovaSpace took another step this week towards achieving its aim of bringing space closer to society, to reach out to underserved communities, and to make science and space more accessible and inclusive, when InnovaSpace founder Thais Russomano gave a virtual lecture about the participation of women in the space programme to an audience of 39 young ladies, aged between 10 and 12 years from two state-run schools in Gravataí, Brazil, as part of a project called ‘Elas no Lab’ (Girls in the Lab).
This project is the brainchild of three high school students from the Escola Sesi de Ensino Médio Albino Marques Gomes, a private high school in the same city in southern Brazil. Eduarda Rosa Ferreira, Indáia Pereira de Matos and Júlia Alvares Missel had the idea of creating workshops to raise the interest of young girls to pursue scientific careers, as part of a project led by their Physics teacher Cláudia Fraga Germano. Cláudia set her students the task of developing projects that would benefit state-run schools, which often do not receive sufficient funding to invest in the sciences, and lack proper laboratories and equipment. The activities also involved a rocket building workshop using recycled materials, a VR glasses experience that allowed the girls to virtually “travel around the universe”, the photo and video recording of the activities, and an exclusive Q & A session about space science with Thais Russomano at the end of her lecture. Feedback from the girls who attended the event was very positive, with many celebrating this unique and fun experience of learning about science. Another mission accomplished successfully due to a collaboration of working ideas and ideals in partnership! However, consider this just a first step – as InnovaSpace is proud to announce the launch of a new outreach project called Valentina – more details to be posted soon!
InnovaSpace Founder, CEO & Scientific Director
The ancient practice of yoga has its roots deep in the ancestral traditions of India. The word comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which has countless meanings, such as controlling, uniting, concentrating, or integrating. Yoga is seen as a way of harmonising the body and mind, through meditation, breathing techniques and postural exercises.
Despite its influence on various cultures over time, and it being practiced on a daily basis all over the world, I have to confess that I knew very little about this centuries-old practice, that is, until I was invited by Guerilla Science to take part in their Space Yoga class at the Brighton Yoga Festival, held on the weekend of 14th-15th July this year, at the Sussex County Cricket Ground in Brighton & Hove, neighbouring towns on the English south coast.
Rather luckily, my invite did not involve me personally having to perform breathing exercises or adopt certain body positions, as my hosts may have been a little disappointed! It was, however, to talk about the changes undergone by astronauts when they spend time in microgravity, as yoga therapy has been contemplated and researched as a possible complementary activity that could benefit astronaut health and emotional wellbeing, as discussed in a 2012 article published by Joan Vernikos et al*. and a 2013 interview, hosted on the YouTube channel YogiViews.
This combination of yoga and space science is an initiative of Guerilla Science, an organisation that develops events for festivals, museums, galleries and cultural shows, with the goal of connecting people and science through experiences that are fun, inspiring and challenging!
Yoga teacher Gemma Hart conducted the yoga class in five blocks - first, the anti-gravitational muscles of the back and legs were worked; then systems supporting equilibrium and coordination, all of which are impaired by microgravity; next a walk against resistance, as would happen during a space walk; followed by a demonstration of the effect of microgravity on spinal elongation; and ending with the effects of a lack of gravity on the cardiovascular system.
As Gemma, guided the participants as they assumed different body postures, I described some of the effects that microgravity has on the body and mind of the astronaut. And so it was in this way, that on a beautiful sunny day in Brighton by the sea, I was introduced to this ancient practice, merged with science to form - a space yoga class.
*Yoga Therapy as a Complement to Astronaut Health and Emotional Fitness – Stress Reduction and Countermeasure Effectiveness Before, During, and in Post-Flight Rehabilitation: a Hypothesis - Gravitational and Space Biology Volume 26 (1) Apr 2012
InnovaSpace Founder, CEO & Scientific Director
The importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) education has long been talked about, with education policy and curriculum choices targeting these areas to improve competitiveness in science and technology development, and to try and address the shortage of skills in the workforce. While these subjects are extremely relevant in today's world, they do not underpin the innovative process in isolation, often requiring a streak of creativity and imagination to set an idea free. History demonstrates well the productive link between the STEM areas and Art, with Leonardo da Vinci being a classic example - both a great scientist and astounding artist.
The practice of art in its numerous senses, such as, language, physical art, music and design, among many others, can provide imaginative opportunities for communication and expression and inspire the young to be creative with their ideas. Blending art into the STEM areas can also provide a conduit by which to attract the interest of those who might not normally consider the sciences. Although a scientist and doctor myself, I have always been drawn to the arts and am equally as happy writing an article on space physiology as I am writing a romance novel. So when I was contacted by a gentleman from a theatre group wanting to know if I could share a little space knowledge with them, I was delighted to say yes!
The FLUX Phase theatre group brings together a diverse group of actors in training, currently completing an MA in Acting at the E15 Acting School in Loughton, Essex. Their latest production is based on Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, which states that as you travel close to the speed of light, time passes more slowly. So imagine if one identical twin makes a journey into space on a near light-speed spaceship, leaving the other twin at home on Earth, and then returns from 30 years space travel. Will the twin who stayed home have aged more? Will one look much older than the other? This is the Twin Paradox!
I had the great pleasure of virtually meeting with this group of actors to discuss the effects that microgravity has on the human body during a space mission - of which there are many! We chatted about bones, muscles, heart, lungs and the brain, and how these all react to being in an environment where there is no gravity, and in turn, they asked many interesting questions related to body movement and human behaviour in space - an interesting two-way process of bringing together science and art.
The clip below of a rehearsal session is just a taste of this very interesting and creative production, which can be seen at The Albany in Gt Portland Street, London, as part of The Camden Fringe on the 4th & 5th August 2018. Well worth a visit, and anyone turning up in a spacesuit or an Albert Einstein mask can enter for free!!
"The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin ... or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity." Mae Jemison, 1st African American woman in space
Roberto D. Fanganiello
InnovaSpace Scientific & Strategic Consultant
It is with immense pleasure that I helped to catalyze the partnership between InnovaSpace and R-Crio, announced last week. I have been assisting both companies ever since they started operating : R-Crio back in 2014 and InnovaSpace since its incorporation in the United Kingdom, in September, 2017.
R-Crio is a cell technology company headquartered in Campinas, Brazil, whose main service is the processing and storage of adult stromal cells isolated from the pulp of baby teeth. R-Crio also functions as an accelerator of projects, programs and nascent companies, with the final goal of delivering the promise of regenerative medicine and cell-based tissue bioengineering to society, safely and efficiently. A plenitude of these incubated initiatives are educational and this is where I see substantial synergy between R-Crio and InnovaSpace. It is where I also believe that this partnership can benefit both companies the most.
InnovaSpace has a very solid educational basis, which was achieved by a commitment of our team, diligently and wisely orchestrated by Thais Russomano, to think creatively and innovatively about the shape and the focus of each project, to always appoint the best people we can and set clear priorities for each different program and to delineate activities where human potential can be fully realized. At InnovaSpace, with each and every educational enterprise, we are committed to the advancement of a broad education based on critical thinking, instead of a narrowly-focused technical training.
We are not dedicated to teaching people what to think, but how to think, and to instil people with the capacity to make fruitful use of information. At the very core of each new project is the understanding that the best way to surpass the constrainment of opportunities due to race, gender, religion, economic background and geographic location is by the development of freedom to think clearly and independently, and to equip oneself for the ample array of challenges we face in life.
In a broader sense, InnovaSpace and R-Crio also have a lot in common. Both companies have the hallmark features of genuine leaders, of drawing the best out of each project and of inspiring each team to pursue meaningful goals. Both have worked extremely hard and have persevered and thrived in the face of many adversities. And both have stretched way beyond their comfort zones. Nearly everyone has heard the proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. I am certain this partnership will benefit both companies and, as they start to “go together” and continue to grow, they will have more latitude to go as far as their boldest aspirations.
Department of Morphological Sciences, ICBS, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
The growing global interest in space programs, including space colonization strategies, will necessarily have to consider the reproductive process in outer space. Humans procreate through sexual reproduction, a near ubiquitous feature of living organisms on Earth. Furthermore, sexual reproduction is the fundamental strategy through which living organisms colonize new environments, as proven by Darwin´s theory of evolution. Successful colonization in a new niche represents the selection of adaptation-advantageous traits in well-adapted individuals and the elimination of those that do not express these advantageous characteristics. The individual advantageous/non-advantageous variability is achieved by new genetic combinations that occur during the formation of sex cells, a process called meiosis, which is unique and essential to sexual reproduction. In addition, the interaction between male and female gametes, leading to fertilisation and the creation of a new human being, is a critical feature of human reproduction.
Male and female sex cells must join together to form a new individual, the zygote, however, living circumstances in outer space may not provide favourable conditions for male and female gametes to join together naturally. In addition, the highly developed physiological mechanisms involved in human sexual reproduction may not be as effective when subject to a new environment, such as would be experienced if humans colonised another planet. Moreover, the effects of the high levels of radiation observed in space and microgravity on mammalian reproduction are largely unknown. In view of these difficulties and uncertainties, it is quite likely the use of assisted reproduction technologies, known as fertility treatment, will need to be considered for this fundamental issue of future lives spent in space stations or other planetary habitats.
#HumanFertility #FertilityInMicorgravity #AssistedConception
Admin Director, InnovaSpace
A really exciting week lies ahead for the Aerospace Medicine and Rehabilitation Laboratory team of researchers from Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK. Led by Professor Nick Caplan, the team will take part in a partial-gravity parabolic flight campaign organised by the European Space Agency, the problem under investigation being one that affects many astronauts when they spend time in the microgravity of space – back pain.
It is well known that astronauts increase in height during their missions, usually between 3-5 cm. While under the influence of the gravity on Earth, the spine is compressed, rather like a spring being pushed down. Remove that force of gravity and the spring will expand and stretch, and this is what is thought to happen in space – the force of gravity is removed and so the vertebrae that make up the spine stretch out, and hence the increase in height and discomfort as connecting ligaments and support muscles extend. Over time spent in reduced gravity, research has demonstrated these muscles that connect the bones of the spine together shrink and weaken, particularly those in the lower back, as they are less required in space.
This musculoskeletal deconditioning can lead to a greater risk of spinal injury when an astronaut returns once more to an increased gravity environment, such as on Earth. Therefore, the Northumbria University experiment will examine through a technique called fine wire electromyography, which support muscles in the back are being affected by a reduction in microgravity. With this knowledge, it could be possible to develop an effective countermeasure to mitigate the muscle loss that will occur as humans spend longer durations in space, and considering the likelihood of colonies being established on the Moon or Mars.
InnovaSpace sends good luck vibes and best wishes to all the research team of the Aerospace Medicine and Rehabilitation Laboratory who will soon be boarding the Novespace Zero-G plane for 3 days of 31 parabolas a day. Hoping your equipment behaves, your data is plentiful and you all manage to not vomit up your breakfasts!
#parabolicflight #AstronautBackPain #partialgravity
Gabriela Albandes de Souza
Culture & Education Project Manager, InnovaSpace
At first sight, anthropology and space exploration may seem to be two completely different fields with nothing or very little in common. When one thinks about space exploration, the most common associations are with disciplines such as engineering, physics, medicine, robotics, IT, and others related to the technology required for the endeavour and for keeping humans alive. On the other hand, anthropology is immediately associated with the study of non-Western, non-white and non-industrialised societies. Indeed, at its beginning as an independent academic discipline in the second half of the 19th century, it was very much about this, and only this. Nevertheless, as anthropology is ultimately interested in finding out what it means to be human and how people make sense of the world in the most diverse contexts, its research spectrum has gradually broadened. Nowadays, it embraces the study of any social group and its cultural idiosyncrasies, including scientists and astronauts.
Every single society has questioned what there is beyond Earth, the origins of the universe and all that it encompasses, including humankind, and each has found explanations to the unknown phenomena through specific modes of expertise. For some, the Cosmos was created by gods and is the home of powerful deities. Others, in a very specific context – Europe, 17th century – started to systematically study outer space using the emergent scientific methods and technological devices that augmented our senses, turned the invisible visible and went where humans could not. This very specific way of making sense of the world has profoundly changed the imaginary about the Cosmos in some societies and changed the way many people perceive and relate to the universe, to Earth and to all the species that live on our planet. Nowadays, in Western scientific cosmologies, the universe is thought to have been created by the Big Bang and to be ruled by natural laws, which can be translated in mathematical equations. Such a worldview is culturally embedded, therefore space exploration and scientists working on this project are subjects that concern anthropology.
Furthermore, since the 1970s, people have been living in space for increasingly longer periods of time and have been experiencing what it means to be human in a radically different context. Our sense of ‘being’ is inherently relational to our surroundings, the conditions presented by them and by those around us, which we take for granted here on Earth. Therefore, the experience of living in radically different conditions deeply affects our perspective, our senses and relationships — the “simple” fact that there is no gravity makes everything completely different. Since the International Space Station (ISS) began operating in 2000, this hybrid of dwelling/lab has been permanently inhabited by astronauts from different academic and cultural backgrounds, all of who must live together and cope with the extreme environment of outer space and the challenges it presents.
Wherever there are humans together there is social life and culture, and what it means to be human is embedded in this context, and therefore, astronauts consist of a very singular and interesting subject of research for the discipline. Moreover, space exploration is an endeavour that involves the participation of many people working together and sharing the same aims and worldview; its findings and achievements affect the lives of people on Earth; and future projects include the colonisation of other planetary bodies, furthering the human presence outside Earth and turning our species into an interplanetary one. Accordingly, space exploration is an issue that concerns not only hard and natural sciences, but also human and social sciences in general.
Although anthropologists from the 1960s onwards began to join the debate about space exploration issues, it is only in the last two decades that the subject has really become a part of the agenda of the discipline. Since then, a wider group of academics have been exploring the frontiers between outer space and anthropology, and carrying out fieldwork (the required method of research to get to know a culture in depth) among people whose activities are related to the area. These studies have become so prolific that nowadays there is a subfield informally called the Anthropology of Outer Space, which includes scholars such as John Traphagan, Lisa Messeri, Debbora Battaglia, David Valentine, Valerie Olson, Stephen Helmreich, Götz Hoeppe. Their contributions have shed light on the previously neglected areas of the human, social and cultural implications of exploring outer space, such as theories of possible ETs, asteroid mining, astrobiology, astronomical practices, life in space, fieldwork in analogue sites, multi-planet species and human/non-human relationships, and NewSpacers commercial activities, among others. As can be seen, this is an extensive and growing area, and one that deserves deeper exploration in a future blog highlighting some of these works.
Prof. Marlise A dos Santos, PhD
InnovaSpace Advisory Board member, and Coordinator MicroG-PUCRS
Finding myself in Lisbon, Portugal one chilly February afternoon this year, and as a pharmacist, I was very interested to discover the presence of a Museum of Pharmacy (www.museudafarmacia.pt/) in the city. My husband Arno and I decided to pay it a visit and very much appreciated the history it presented of the evolution of pharmacological therapy, from antiquity to the present, through the use of medicinal plants and drugs from around the world, and especially from Portugal.
But even more of a wonderful and unexpected surprise at the end of our visit was the finding of a space pharmacy. As previously mentioned, I am a pharmacist by profession, however and quite unusually, space pharmacy has been one of the most important areas of my professional practice, a specialism in which I have conducted much research and presented the results of studies in scientific congresses around the world.
Space Pharmacy is one of those areas that remains with many mysteries and is little studied, either during space missions or land simulations. Whenever medications are prescribed for use in space, it is done so respecting the same dosage and interval of administration that would be used for terrestrial medicine. There are, however, a number of doubts as to how appropriate this might be, with many questions still left unanswered. Are there any differences in the absorption rate of drugs in an environment where the gravitational force is either reduced or even absent? How is the drug metabolism affected in microgravity? Are there changes in the drug excretion? Much more research is still needed to clarify these doubts and to ensure the best health outcomes for astronauts in space.
It was, however, wonderful to see that space pharmacy was being considered in this treasure of a museum, and the surprises did not stop there. Integrated into the museum nearby is a restaurant called Pharmacia with a quirky menu, where dishes and drinks creatively continue the pharmacy theme, such as cocktails named after medications and potions, walls decorated with pharmaceutical motifs, waiters wearing white lab coats, and the final bill presented to the customer inside a laboratory examination bottle. Should you also find yourself in Lisbon one day with a couple of hours to spare, I would certainly recommend the museum and restaurant, just one of the many wonderful experiences of the city of Lisbon.
Blog written by Dr. Joan Vernikos, InnovaSpace Advisory Board Member, former Director of Life Sciences NASA,
Founder of Thirdage llc, Culpeper VA, USA
The influence of gravity in human health on Earth has been grossly underestimated. Only through the experience of human spaceflight some 60 years ago did it become apparent that changes induced by living in the microgravity of space were not simply due to inactivity, as was originally thought. Unlike other variables like heat, cold or altitude, there is no evidence that the human body adapts to living with less or no gravity.
In fact, the longer humans are in space the faster the degenerative changes seem to occur, despite significant exercise and attempts at other countermeasures. With durations lasting six or more months and better diagnostic techniques, it can be seen that living in space accelerates tenfold the rate of decrease in bone density, when measured over the same time in the average population on Earth.
On Earth the effect of gravity is fairly straightforward. It pulls in one direction only, downward, towards the center of the Earth. Unlike plants, humans have the choice of orienting themselves relative to the force of gravity in every conceivable way and mostly in intermittent patterns. They also reduce gravity’s effects on the body during sleep at night or in continuous bed-rest when they are lying in bed. They can also enhance its force with various activities such as walking, running, jumping, bouncing on a trampoline or riding on a centrifuge. How we sense and use gravity determines our health and fitness. The most evident is that of loading, which imparts weight to the body when gravity is pulling in the head to foot direction (+Gz). We are aware of exertion against the force of gravity during normal activity of moving and walking. Gravity is obviously involved in postural and other changes in movement and direction, such as giving cues about our spatial orientation relative to gravity’s vertical pull. Without regular exposure to these +Gz forces, as occurs during spaceflight and prolonged bed-rest, significant cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, metabolic, neural and primarily neuro-vestibular mediated functions are compromised.
Metabolism is changed, with fat accumulating to replace lost muscle and fatty oxidation with a reduced capacity to use fats for energy. In addition to metabolic changes, intermittent exposure to centrifugation mimicking alternating standing and sitting, draws fluids to the feet resulting in secondary increased heart rate, blood pressure, stroke volume, baroreflex sensitivity, increased blood volume and an altogether better functioning cardiovascular system. Centrifugation, as with an intense exercise bout, would probably lead to an endothelial ‘nitric oxide dump’ that would benefit blood vessel responsiveness. Both in space and ageing, endothelial lining atrophies with resulting vascular weakness. Centrifugation has also been found to improve parasympathetic nervous system function as well as brain blood flow and oxygen saturation, all desirable features of improved health and brain function.
A gravity stimulus may be provided in the form of a rotating short-arm centrifuge. Accepting that ageing is primarily a Gz-deprived condition, then it follows that gravity therapy would be a logical treatment during ageing or as a preventive measure in other degenerative conditions or injuries.
If these are caused or worsened by gravity-deprivation then it stands to reason that gravity replacement or treatment should provide relief. These include:
However, relatively little is known about how much and when such artificial gravity is optimal in humans. Studies in animals - rats, mice, rabbits, chickens –were exposed to 2G, 24h/day for 20 days with a short daily stop for cleaning and feeding. Such chronic exposure to 2G resulted in reduced food intake, loss in body fat, increased muscle and bone mass and strength, reduced insulin levels and insulin resistance. On the other hand, human studies have followed the exercise once-a-day custom, and used centrifugation only once a day at levels varying from 0.5 to 1G, however, these once-a-day protocols have proven to be only partially beneficial.
A twice or three times a day G-exposure would come closer to the ideal G stimulation we are exposed to as we move around and change posture throughout the day. In research that I and my colleagues conducted (published 1996) involving volunteers deconditioned by lying in bed continuously, we tested the effect of the 1Gz stimulus of standing up for 15 minutes every two hours throughout the 16-hour day. This schedule was completely effective in maintaining aerobic conditioning, blood volume, cardiovascular responsiveness, and preventing calcium loss from bone, whereas standing up for this time period every 4 hours was found to be less effective.
Clinical applications of Gravity therapy could include, but are not limited to :-osteoporosis, accelerated repair of bone fracture from sports injuries, in the elderly or paraplegics, less insulin resistance in diabetics, increased muscle mass in conditions of muscle wasting, joint deterioration aggravated by weight bearing and potentially certain forms of pulmonary edema or concussion.
What is undoubtedly true is that for many of us our modern lifestyle does not provide the level of activity of our parents and grandparents. We have struggled for decades to exercise more and eat less, but one thing hasn’t changed: we still spend hour after hour each day virtually immobile in our chairs. Our lives have become sedentary and the way we live affects, not only our physical health, but our emotional and mental wellbeing. From the more complex perspective of exercise equipment or centrifuges, to the more everyday and accessible activities that everyone can incorporate into their daily lives, such as simply standing up every 15 minutes or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, using gravity in our favour and as a therapy will become more and more important as we age, helping to maintain the balance and strength we need to continue performing basic life functions.
“There is much that is not known about how gravity is sensed and translated into input to every system in the body. This includes its required threshold, frequency, intensity, duration and direction. Space provides the ideal environment to tease out these aspects of gravity. This is crucial so that we may understand the requirements for replacing gravity in the countermeasure formula for exploration missions as well as expanding our knowledge in basic human physiology on Earth.”
In this Vlog, Dr Lucas Rehnberg, InnovaSpace SGen Hub Coordinator talks about his experience working at the Mission Support Centre in Innsbruck, Austria, providing remote assistance and monitoring to the analog astronauts and crew of the AMADEE18 Mars simulation mission, based in the Dhofar desert in Oman.