Classroom Activity

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Key Topic: Gas solubility in living systems

Decompression sickness is a health risk often associated with underwater diving. Astronauts must also take precautions to avoid decompression sickness that could occur when going on spacewalks. The pressurized spacesuits astronauts wear on spacewalks is significantly lower than the ambient pressure of the International Space Station (ISS). For this reason, astronauts go through a denitrogenation process prior to all spacewalks. In this activity, students will apply principles learned about dissolved oxygen in aquatic ecosystems to evaluate nitrogen solubility in the human body.

Students will
  • recall the concepts, data analyses, and conclusions of AP Lab 12: Dissolved Oxygen and Aquatic Primary Productivity;
  • correlate gas solubility and function of vertebrate respiratory systems;
  • analyze the effect of pressure on gas solubility from experimental data; and
  • • predict the physiological consequence with varying nitrogen and oxygen concentrations.

› Preventing Decompression Sickness on Spacewalks Educator Edition (PDF 1459 KB)
› Preventing Decompression Sickness on Spacewalks Student Edition (PDF 137 KB)