Dr. Lucas Rehnberg
InnovaSpace Space Life Sciences Expert.
Recently I had the pleasure to attend the world’s largest aerospace medicine conference in Las Vegas, the 90th Annual Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) Conference. This was my second AsMA (@Aero_Med) meeting and it didn’t disappoint.
As a doctor training in the UK with an interest in space medicine, the AsMA conference is a great opportunity to present work, meet other space medicine enthusiasts as well as individuals from different disciplines – but all with a shared passion for space and aerospace. The thought behind this blog was to serve as a taster of what AsMA has to offer to those thinking about pursuing a career in this field or who want to gain an idea of how to become involved. So, this was my experience of the conference:
Day 1 - Monday
Started with an incredible opening session commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the moon landing.
The panel was moderated by Dr Mike Barratt, astronaut and flight surgeon, and consisted of some giants from the Apollo missions:
- Dr Charles Berry & Dr Bill Carpentier, Apollo flight surgeons.
- Gerry Griffin, Apollo flight director.
The session opened with a specially commissioned video dedicated to the Apollo 11 landing in 1969 and the lead-up time. It was an excellent reminder of what was achieved when a nation came together and set the tone for the discussion, reflecting on their experience of Apollo 11 and the Apollo missions.
Some of my favourite moments of this session include when Dr Berry told a great story of stopping President Nixon from having a meal with the Apollo 11 crew the night before their launch, including a letter he wrote to President Nixon apologising for this. Then flight surgeon Dr Carpentier told us what flight surgeons learnt from the Mercury and Gemini missions, before starting on the Apollo missions. Dr Carpentier also spoke about some of his training, including practicing jumping from a moving helicopter in order that he could give medical assistance to the landing Apollo crews.
Gerry Griffin spoke of the pressure of the Apollo missions and the relief mixed with excitement when the Apollo 11 crew set foot on the aircraft carrier after their landing. He also spoke about the Apollo 1 tragedy, what we learnt from all the Apollo missions, and how this will help human spaceflight now that we are focusing on going back to the Moon.
Closing comments from each of the panel followed a similar theme, summed up best by Gerry Griffin, "We’ve gotta get back to the Moon. It’s been 50 years since we’ve done it...we need to get our mojo back."
In the afternoon, I attended 2 panels; behavioural health in human spaceflight and advancing future space exploration with medical system design. The former panel emphasised the importance of human factors and behaviours for the success of exploration missions. It highlighted the lack of data and long-term follow-up of many of the astronauts, suggesting a need to ensure this occurs with current crew members, and also to better assess and monitor psychological performance.
The latter panel was very interesting, attempting to do predict the impossible; what can go wrong with crewmembers and how do we plan/prepare for it? The list of medical conditions that could occur during a human mission to Mars is extensive, and plans for dealing with such events are still in development. The panel members described risk analysis with all the available current data, also emphasising the importance of an interface between medics and engineers to help design systems to overcome these problems (the old mass, power, volume issue).
This began with the ESAM (European Society of Areospace Medicine) panel. There were talks on the difficult topic of airway management and intubation in microgravity, with some interesting results suggesting that modern video laryngoscopy could be a useful tool in novice healthcare providers in order to increase their success rate. There followed a review of the latest microgravity CPR data in order to develop an evidence-based CPR guideline, and finally Dr Christina Mackaill (@cosmic_scot - one to follow!) talked about some of the terrestrial benefits of hypogravity CPR research.
The afternoon saw an EXCELLENT panel on analog missions, discussing the medical considerations for each one. Speakers included:
I also had the pleasure of presenting some work conducted with the Austrian Space Forum on the AMADEE18 Mars analog mission, looking at fatigue in analog astronauts. The rest of the panel included excellent speakers on current developments for IVA (intra vehicular activity) suits and a portable lower body negative pressure device.
The afternoon session was then dedicated to the medical lessons learnt from the Apollo missions - a great historical look at what they did, what was learnt from it, and how it will shape what we do when going back to the Moon. The session included a review of the main biomedical results and how medical operations were conducted during the Apollo missions, an interesting insight into the food and nutrition of the Apollo crews, and the recovery and quarantine programme of the Apollo Moon landing missions. Truly some giants in the field of space life science, and what they learnt 50 years ago will shape how we return humans to the Moon in the next 10 years!
This day had a good mix of space medicine topics:
I should point out that what I have written here is just my experience of the AsMA meeting this year in Las Vegas; there were so many other great panels that I couldn’t attend, even a course on desert medicine hosted by AsMA (alas, I had to fly home).
For students or young professionals looking to enter this exciting field, I would highly recommend the AsMA conference (next year in Atlanta, Georgia, USA). There are a range of scholarships to help fund attending the conference, check out the AsMA website for details: https://www.asma.org/home
The conference will give you the opportunity to hear from experts, past and present, from NASA, ESA, all branches of the military, flight surgeons, astronauts, engineers and so many more. In addition, there are breakout sessions ranging from luncheons with guest speakers to ‘Speed Mentoring’ to help students and young professionals to network, build relationships and guide them in their next steps for a career in space.
Again, if this is your dream, AsMA is a great place to start. For more information, check out their website, or get in touch for more information. If your a fan of social media, I would also recommend following InnovaSpace on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter, and also some of the mentioned individuals in this article - they are just a few of the many space medics out there doing interesting work - and apologies to anyone I missed!
The negative effects on the human musculoskeletal system of spending prolonged periods of time in a reduced gravity environment are well known and documented. Astronauts in space suffer a loss of bone and muscle mass, especially in the lower extremities, which they try to counteract by exercising for at least 2 hours a day while in space. The Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) is a complex piece of equipment on the International Space Station that is especially designed to provide a resistive type of exercise that helps astronauts maintain muscle mass. You can imagine that this equipment would have taken a lot of time and money to develop and validate, requiring the skills of a team of biomedical engineers and physiologists. However, you don't have to be a NASA engineer or have a PhD to come up with a good idea, as borne out by the creative mind of Frank Calvin, former US marine and law-enforcement officer, who recently sent us a video of his patented exercise harness. We liked the simplicity and effectiveness of his idea, so we thought we would throw open today's blog to Frank from Warren, Ohio!
"IF IT WORKS IN WATER IT WILL WORK IN SPACE" - says Frank Calvin
Imagine wearing a 30lb backpack and jumping into the deep end a swimming pool - you will sink like a rock! But wear the harness and jump into the deep end of the pool. and you will stay afloat as normal, but when treading water or doggy paddling, the quads and lower back are immediately being worked and the 25-30lb of pressure remains on the core system. All movements mentioned can be made in a weightless environment.
In conclusion, I submit that muscle mass can be GAINED, along with prevention of bone density loss in microgravity with the aid of this harness, which is low-cost, light and easy to use!
From an InnovaSpace point of view, it certainly does seem to be a very simple and low-cost idea, and it would probably be interesting if the harness could form part of a research project conducted inside and outside of water in order to validate the system and define its effectiveness. We congratulate Frank on his idea and wish him well for the future of his device!
Em janeiro deste ano, a InnovaSpace teve a oportunidade de cativar a atenção de um grupo de estudantes, de 12-14 anos de idade, com apresentações sobre carreiras de cientistas espaciais.
Estudantes da Escola Rainha Dona Amélia, em Lisboa, reuniram-se no auditório junto com a Profa. Berta Ferreira, para aprender mais sobre o papel das mulheres na Era Espacial.
Com os olhos bem atentos, os jovens alunos sentaram-se para assistir à apresentação do Projeto Valentina, a qual começou com uma entusiasmada palestra da Dra. Michele Rosa, que falou sobre seu caminho profissional e científico até se tornar uma pesquisadora da área espacial, juntamente com o trabalho que ela hoje desempenha na posição de Coordenadora da InnovaSpace Portuguese Hub.
A diretora da InnovaSpace Thais Russomano logo após proferiu uma palestra sobre as mulheres que foram pioneiras ao viajar para o espaço, terminando com sua própria carreira, como ela se tornou uma médica espacial e também contou um pouco do seu trabalho nessa área.
Além dessas palestras, o time da InnovaSpace também aproveitou essa interação com os alunos portugueses para apresentar um dos seus mais recentes projetos, chamado de InnovaSpace Box, desenvolvido pelo especialista em Tecnologia da Informação Maurício Rosa. A InnovaSpace Box é de fácil uso, pois possui uma interface simples que permite a interação dinâmica com os vídeos do projeto Kids2Mars, que ocorreu em 2018 – perguntas e respostas sobre uma viagem a Marte e como os astronautas viveriam e trabalhariam em uma missão interplanetária.
Aproximadamente 2 horas de uma interação construtiva e de um compartilhamento de conhecimento ocorreram nesse evento. Esperamos que o time da InnovaSpace tenha conseguido motivar os estudantes presentes a seguir uma carreira em alguma área da ciência, e, em especial, na área espacial. Nossa experiência em Lisboa é apenas o começo de uma longa jornada em projetos educacionais espaciais para escolas em Portugal e outros países de língua portuguesa.
Por favor, entre em contato se houver interesse em saber mais sobre o que o time da InnovaSpace pode oferecer para a sua escola ou seus alunos – Ficamos no aguardo!
Nossos agradecimentos a Profa. Berta Ferreira e a Escola Rainha Dona Amélia por nos receber e propiciar a realização desse projeto. Muito obrigada também ao Fernando Mendes e à Ana Dias, que facilitaram a aproximação com essa instituição, bem como à sua filha Matilda, cuja a pergunta para o astronauta análogo na missão no deserto de Utah representou Portugal na primeira missão do projeto Kids2Mars.
We are very pleased to announce that The Guardian, a prestigious British newspaper established in 1821, published an article this month (22nd Jan 2019) about InnovaSpace Founder and Director Thais Russomano and her pursuit of a career related to space and space travel. Thais is also Senior Lecturer and Deputy Course Director of the MSc in Space Physiology and Health, CHAPS, at King's College London.
The InnovaSpace outreach projects, such as Kids2Mars and Project Valentina, were also highlighted for their efforts to spark the interest of the young towards the STEM areas, and to follow careers linked to future space travel and colonies.
Do have a read and tell us what you think! The Guardian Article
Authors: Kids from the STEP Computer Academy
And InnovaSpace Admin Director - Mary Upritchard
Over the last few months, InnovaSpace's very own space doctor, Thais Russomano, has been listening to some of the First Lego League tournament teams talking about the projects they have developed for this year’s Into Orbit mission, answering their questions and giving some tips as to areas they might also consider. The annual competition has teams taking part from all over the world (92 different countries this year), adopting a different theme each time linked to robotics and the STEM areas, and aimed at encouraging young students to improve critical thinking and team-building skills, stimulating their creativity and giving the opportunity to present their projects in public in front of judges. As part of this year’s competition, students have been thinking about ways to improve the life, health and wellbeing of astronauts in space, with some really constructive and original ideas being contemplated by these bright young minds.
We were approached by teams from the STEP Computer Academy in Seattle USA a little while back, with great questions they had about their projects. With Thais having given them some feedback, we were delighted to hear recently that 3 of the 5 Into Orbit teams from the academy had made it through to the semi-finals of their national competition, and we are even more delighted now to be able to present three short texts from those teams:
Hello! We are the Galaxy Rulers – a fun and hardworking FIRST LEGO league team from Bellevue, Washington, USA. Our team consists of 8 teammates: Adam, Felix, Owen, Princeton, Urvi, Vanesha, Varshini, and Vedika. We are working on a project to reduce health problems like homesickness in long-term space missions like the Mars 100 mission—Mars colonization project. After getting assistance and opinions from experts and doing research, we came to a solution.
Astronauts can benefit from reminders of home to fight homesickness, so we decided to use plants. Plants can remind astronauts of Earth and beautiful nature. Our solution is totally innovative, as we are using customized plants that the astronauts are familiar with or it is their state flower or plant. We hope that our solution will solve real-world problems in the future.
WE ARE THE GALAXY RULERS
WE MEASURE THE GALAXY!
Hello everyone! We are The Titans! We are a First LEGO League team from Bellevue, WA, USA!
We have 8 teammates: Nikita, Irina, Ayush, Amish, Neev, Amish, Henry, and Liam.
We are working on a project that helps astronauts cope with stress in space. We did research and talked to experts, and found out that astronauts experience a lot of stress on the ISS. A solution to that is to create a relaxation method that will help astronauts reduce stress while working in space.
We are working on a relaxation booth that will address various astronauts’ senses. We propose a relaxation booth that will have real plants inside, relaxation music and a variety of calming scents.
Hi there! We are a First LEGO League team called Space Pirate Pickles!
We are from Bellevue, Washington, United States and we have six members on our team: Liam, Tony, Koden, Hanming, Michael and Vishnu.
Our project is to find new ways to protect astronauts from the space radiation when on long-term space missions. According to our research, such non-technical and easily accessible things like vitamins (D, E, C etc.), iodine-based foods, plants (aloe vera, cactuses), placebos and acupuncture can add to the protection from space radiation. So to solve this problem, we suggest combining non-technical and technical solutions (e.g. thermos-nuclear rockets).
We believe the problem of space radiation will be solved and we will be able to safely (health-wise) travel to far away planets.
We also want to add that First LEGO League has been a great learning experience. FLL journey is all about discovery, learning something new every day, cooperating sharing what we learned with others.
Many InnovaSpace congratulations to the teams from the STEP computer academy, and to all the teams who have taken part in this prestigious tournament - you are all stars!
Wishing the very best of luck to the Galaxy Rulers, The Titans, and the Space Pirate Pickles for their semi-final presentations, and to the many other teams in their national competitions all around the world - ad astra!
InnovaSpace Admin Director
With another year now drawn to a close, I thought it would be interesting to look back on the two very successful InnovaSpace Kids2Mars events that took place in 2018 involving questions asked by children to crew members of Mars analogue missions, one with the MDRS Crew 185 in the Utah desert and the other with the Austrian Space Forum’s AMADEE-18 mission in the Dhofar desert in Oman.
In summary, 53 children from 33 different countries from around the world had the opportunity to ask anything they wanted about travelling to and life on Mars, and very interesting answers came back from analogue astronauts and crew members who spent their time isolated in desert regions, especially chosen for their similarities to the planet Mars.
Analogue astronauts on this type of mission in general have little spare time, as they are involved in many research activities, so we knew we could not bombard them with a mountain of questions. This in fact also linked well with our aims for the Kids2Mars project, which was to involve children from as many different countries as possible – quantity of countries rather than quantity of questions. With our tagline of Space Without Borders, this aspect was of prime importance, so an end result of 33 countries was very satisfying, especially so considering the diverse range of nations involved, such as Bolivia, Bulgaria, Iceland, Mongolia and Nepal. In fact, we had questions coming from countries in 6 of the 7 continents, just missing out on Antarctica, which for obvious reasons is a little more difficult!
It was interesting to hear how the name of the planet Mars, named after the Roman god of war, was pronounced in the various languages. Certainly, the sound of the word was the same or very similar to the English pronunciation in the majority of cases, however, there were a few exceptions, such as from China, Japan, Nepal, Libya and Indian Tamil. We have extracted the word Mars, where mentioned, from all of the children’s questions and with the invaluable help of our two collaborators from Italy, Fabio Pinna and Mario Mollo, created a short video – we hope you like it!
One thing that has become obvious from all the Kids2Mars activities we have conducted is how much the subject of space and space travel arouses curiosity, and how much the young people involved in the lectures and creative pursuits have done so with great enthusiasm and interest. In our view, this is exactly why outreach activities linked to Mars or the Moon or astronauts, in fact anything involving space, can be used as a tool to capture the attention and interest of children, motivating them to give more consideration to the STEM areas of education. Although the adults of today are laying and securing the foundations of human life in space, it is our children who will build on this to become the Space Generation, and perhaps in time, even future Mars colonisers!
InnovaSpace Admin Director
The InnovaSpace team send their wholehearted congratulations to the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) for the landing today (Thursday, 3rd January 2019) of their unmanned Chang'e-4 space probe on the far side of the Moon, the first spacecraft to ever land on the ‘dark side’. The probe landed exactly on target in the South Pole - Aitken Basin, which is the Moon's largest and oldest recognised impact crater.
A small lunar rover, called Yutu 2 or Jade Rabbit 2, descended from the lander onto the surface of the Moon, sending the first panoramic images of a landscape that has never been seen from the surface before. All being well, the rover will explore the terrain and perform a number of tasks, including the measurement of ground composition and the use of ground-penetrating radar to probe below the surface.
The first lunar low-frequency radio astronomy experiment will also be conducted, together with an exploration for evidence of water, and an attempt to grow potatoes in a mini biosphere, among other tasks, all of which could reveal much new and valuable information about the Earth's only permanent natural satellite.
"Since the far side of the moon is shielded from electromagnetic interference from the Earth, it's an ideal place to research the space environment and solar bursts, and the probe can 'listen' to the deeper reaches of the cosmos," said Tongjie Liu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center for the CNSA.
China became only the third nation to carry out a lunar landing, after the United States and Russia, when it landed a previous lunar rover, Chang’e-3, on the near side of the Moon in December 2013. But Chinese ambitions go much further than landing rovers on the Moon, with reports that they aim to put astronauts on the Moon by 2036 (no human feet have stepped on the lunar surface since 13th December 1972, following the end of the American Apollo missions). Chinese sights are also focused on Mars, with its first Mars probe scheduled to carry out orbital and rover exploration around 2020, and further plans for a fully operational permanent space station by 2022.
Well done to everyone at the CNSA and we look forward to hearing more on the progress of the Chang'e-4 mission!
Explanatory point: The far side of the Moon is also known as ‘the dark side’, which is in fact an inaccurate description, as both hemispheres of the Moon receive just as much sunlight as each other. However, the far side can never be seen from Earth due to the Moon rotating at the same speed that it rotates around the Earth, which results in us always seeing the same side. In fact, the two sides of the Moon are actually quite different in appearance, as can be seen in the below images.
Dr. Kushal Madan
Cardiac Rehabilitation Consultant, Dept. of Cardiology, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital New Delhi India
Here on Earth our arterial blood pressure values are set by the pumping action of our heart and by the resistance of our arteries to blood flow, known as peripheral resistance.
Haemodynamics, or the flow of blood in our circulatory system can be summarised as:
The question is though, what happens to blood pressure in Space? How does the microgravity environment that the human body experiences in the ‘weightlessness’ of space affect it?
Weightlessness during spaceflight immediately leads to a shift of blood and body fluids from the lower to the upper part of the body. As the central blood volume increases, there is an increase in cardiac output. But the head-to-foot blood pressure gradient that exists on Earth is removed, thereby dilating the arterial resistance vessels and reducing systemic vascular resistance.
In the space environment, simultaneous to the increased cardiac output, arterial blood pressure either remains the same or is slightly decreased. So, what is the reason for the systemic vasodilatation leading to a reduction in blood pressure in space? Are these changes short-term or do they persist throughout the spaceflight? In 1996 Fritsch-Yelle et al. concluded that there was a decrease of 5 mmHg in diastolic blood pressure and no change in systolic blood pressure, as measured by ambulatory brachial blood pressure monitoring using a portable equipment over the 2 weeks of a spaceflight.
Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) is a continuous blood pressure recording over a 24-hr period to assess the pattern of variability in arterial blood pressure during rest and exercise. ABPM can detect circadian changes, such as nocturnal dipping and morning surge. According to the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association 2017 guidelines, a normotensive patient should have a daytime ABPM <120/80 mm Hg, and a night time ABPM < 100/65 mm Hg. This technique can also pick up on the variations in arterial blood pressure due to different environmental and emotional changes, and it can overcome the disadvantages of manual arterial blood pressure recording, such as white coat hypertension.
The use of this technique in aerospace applications has provided valuable information regarding the mechanisms of blood pressure regulation. Another important use of this method of arterial blood pressure monitoring is in assessing the effectiveness of countermeasures applied to reduce the adverse effect of weightlessness on the cardiovascular system. Initial studies conducted on astronauts have shown that ambulatory blood pressure equipment can detect the increase and decrease of blood pressure before, during and after spaceflight. Therefore, it would seem that these ABPM devices have a very useful role to play in detecting the blood pressure changes that occur during the stressful and hostile situations found during space missions.
Gabriela Albandes de Souza
InnovaSpace Culture & Education Project Manager
The InnovaSpace outreach projects Valentina and Astronaut for a Day had another edition in Brazil last week, with company founder, Dr. Thais Russomano, giving two space science talks to students from the state school Olegário Mariano, in Porto Alegre.
The first lecture, watched by 48 teenagers from the 9th year (aged 14-15 years), focused on the Valentina initiative, which aims is to raise the interest of girls in the sciences and to break gender prejudice by highlighting those women who have made important contributions to the development of the space program since its inception. Following a final Q & A session in which the curious students asked many interesting questions, the group were asked to use their creativity to build a rocket using simple materials provided by the school, such as fizzy drink bottles, cardboard boxes and aluminium foil. Chatting with the students afterwards we found that, while some said they already intended to pursue careers in the STEM areas, others became interested after getting to know the many possibilities that these fields offer.
The second lecture of the day, called Astronaut for a Day and attended by 25 5th year students (aged 10-11 years), explained how astronauts live and work in space, the impact of microG and radiation on human physiology, and the importance of the spacecraft and spacesuit in keeping the astronauts alive and well in space. The students also watched a video about the life of the crew aboard the ISS and were amazed by the differences between life in space and on Earth. These inquisitive young people actively participated in the event, raising their hands to answer questions posed by Dr. Russomano (five raised hands when asked who wanted to be an astronaut), and coming up with questions of their own about many aspects of life in space. At the end of the presentation, this group were set the task of making a spacesuit from the materials provided, while a group of young ladies resolved to create a spacecraft.
The team at InnovaSpace send a big thank you to biologist Adriana Bos-Mikich, who conducted the first Astronaut for a Day project in Brazil and introduced us to the Director of the Olegário Mariano school, Gustavo Adolfo Albrecht, who welcomed the initiative. Our thanks also go to the Science and Biology teachers, Marcia Tagliani and Johnny Pereira de Aguiar respectively, who helped greatly in organising the activities.
InnovaSpace Scientific & Strategic Consultant.
On November 21st and 22nd, 2018 I had the pleasure of visiting the laboratory of Prof. Nandu Goswami, at the Medical University of Graz, in Austria. Nandu is an Associate Professor at the university, interim head of the Division of Physiology and Head of the Gravitational Physiology and Medicine research unit. The main areas of study of his research group are cardiovascular physiology, cerebral auto-regulation and space/gravitational physiology, especially using Earth-based models of space flight.
Cardiovascular alterations encountered during space missions, such as a reduction in central venous pressure, cardiac atrophy and decreased vascular responsiveness to standing are major concerns for astronauts during and after spaceflight. On Earth, the ageing process is also linked to physiological deconditioning of the cardiovascular system, which creates a parallel with the changes in human physiology secondary to weightlessness exposure. At the Gravitational Physiology and Medicine research unit, bed rest studies are used as a ground-based simulation of microgravity to further understand the effects of deconditioning, both for the elderly on Earth and astronauts in space. This is also an area of special interest for InnovaSpace Advisor Joan Vernikos, who conducted similar research at NASA for many years and has published scientific articles and books on the topic.
InnovaSpace congratulates Nandu for his work, which is a very interesting area of research and can be seen as a good example of technological and knowledge transfer from space to Earth. Together with the InnovaSpace team, I hope we can one day collaborate with Prof. Goswami and his group in Graz.