TRISH to enhance research on Ax-1 mission, data on human spaceflight impacts

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine in consortium with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will sponsor important human health and performance research on the Ax-1 mission. Ax-1 is the world’s first all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), scheduled to launch March 30, 2022, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The crew members will participate in four TRISH-sponsored research projects prior to launch and after landing back on Earth. Findings will inform technologies and best practices to help prepare astronauts for deep space travel and help understand and manage impacts on private citizens traveling to space. The research includes readaptation to gravity after spaceflight (balance and perception integration testing), neurological and mental task performance and vision changes in spaceflight.

“TRISH is thrilled to partner with Axiom Space for its Ax-1 mission and values the commitment each member of the crew has made to contribute to the body of knowledge on space health,” said Dr. Dorit Donoviel, TRISH executive director and professor in the Center for Space Medicine at Baylor. “This research will inform us on how to protect the health of the diverse group of space travelers whether to destinations close to Earth or far away. For biologists and physiologists, the adaptation of the human body to space is yielding key insights into the early stages of disorders here on Earth.”

The TRISH biomedical research goals for Ax-1 include:

• Collection of research-grade ECG activity, movement, sleep, heart rate and rhythm and blood oxygen saturation.

  • Physiologic data improves understanding of how private astronauts or civilians might fare during space travel.

• Performance of a series of tests designed to assess changes in behavioral and cognitive performance. These tests are a subset of a larger cognitive test battery used by astronauts in NASA-funded behavioral health research studies. Tests are administered with the Joggle Research app (Pulsar Informatics Inc.) on a tablet.

  • Cognitive data improves understanding of how well the general population will endure the stress of space travel.

• Use of balance and perception tests pre-flight and post-flight to measure the body’s adaptation during changes of gravity. These tests are currently performed by U.S. astronauts before and after spaceflight.

  • Results might enable prediction of who will get space motion sickness (SMS). SMS can significantly impair an astronaut during a critical phase of the mission.

• Use of PlenOptika’s portable auto-refractor QuickSee device pre-flight and post-flight to collect relevant vision data pertaining to sight, measuring changes in refractive error after spaceflight, yielding data that has the potential to be relevant for future vision research in space.

  • Changes in vision appear in the early stages of the Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS), which occurs in about 70% of astronauts. Recognizing the early signs of SANS may help prevent its development.

“Axiom supports research in human health and performance that will benefit a diverse population of space explorers, travelers, workers and visitors,” said Christian Maender, the director of in-space manufacturing and research at Axiom Space. “A partnership with TRISH is integral to the Ax-1 mission and to future Axiom missions. We are inspired by the Ax-1 crew’s dedication to innovative microgravity research including these important projects from TRISH”.

The Ax-1 mission crew members are Michael López-Alegría, commander; Larry Connor, pilot; and Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe, mission specialists. The Ax-1 crew will live and work aboard the U.S. segment of the ISS for approximately eight days while participating in additional research and philanthropic projects.

The Axiom and TRISH collaboration aims to broaden contributions and access to space biomedical research data. Anonymized data from future consenting crew participants will be accessible to verified researchers through a data repository funded and overseen by TRISH at Baylor College of Medicine.

Empowered by NASA’s Human Research Program, TRISH finds and funds disruptive, innovative technologies with the goal of protecting human health in space. Increasing human health and performance research on commercial spaceflight is the objective of TRISH’s EXPAND (Enhancing eXploration Platforms and ANalog Definition) program, which collects pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight health data from private crewed missions and stores it in a centralized research database built by TrialX, which customized its existing software for space health research.

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