The sensorimotor system is a network that includes the sensory organs (eyes, ears, skin), parts of the nervous system, and the body's motor controls. It governs the human body's ability to perceive and respond to the external environment, as well as its ability to move and other functional activities. During several critical periods of space travel, such as the adaptation to spaceflight and the re-adaptation to the gravity of Earth and other planetary surfaces, a number of sensorimotor disturbances have been found to occur.
Common sensorimotor issues that have been identified in spaceflight include changes in control of movement, changes in the ability to see and interpret information from the eyes, problems with spatial orientation, space motion sickness, and difficulty walking. The longer the duration of space travel, the more intensely astronauts are likely to experience these sensorimotor symptoms. This pattern poses a significant challenge for future missions that will focus on long-term space exploration.
Studies to prevent and reduce the sensorimotor issues caused by space flight have focused on exercise, self-assessment tools, and adaptation countermeasures. Future studies will seek to develop in-flight measures that will aid crewmembers in identifying and facilitating their own adaptation to different gravitational environments.