Human Body in Space

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Human Body in Space

The word Body below light-blue silhouette of a man's head

Content on this page supports the concept that the human body has systems that interact with one another. Learn how microgravity and space radiation affect the human body.

Lesson Plans

Bag of Bones Activity (Grades K-8)
Students test bone density using plastic snack bags, corn puff cereal and a heavy book. They apply the scientific method to determine degrees of bone loss and learn why healthy bones are important in space and on Earth.

How Quick Are Your Responses? (Grades 4-6)
Students learn what reaction time is and how it is measured.

Life Science Themed Units and Camps (Grades 4-6)
NASA's Summer of Innovation Project provides theme-based units: The Body, Food, Life Out There?, Plants, and Survival. Professional development training modules are available for educators on the website. 

O2 -- How Much? (Grades 5-9) 
In this activity, students measure the quantity of oxygen a person needs during varying levels of activity. 

The Brain in Space Educator Guide (Grades 5-12)
Neuroscience is the study of the ways in which the body’s brain, spinal cord and network of nerves control the activities of animals and humans. This guide targets a high school audience and provides background material and activities related to NASA’s Neurolab research. 

Space Faring: The Radiation Challenge Middle School Educator Guide (Grades 6-8) 
The guide links disciplines -- biology, physics, astrophysics, planetary science and engineering -- with inquiry-based activities to introduce radiation biology to middle school students.

Radiation Math Educator Guide (Grades 6-12)
Use mathematics to discover the mysteries of radiation and how it affects humans.

Space Faring: The Radiation Challenge Unit (Grades 6-12)
Space radiation can be an obstacle to exploration. In this teaching unit, students learn about the types of radiation, the types of damage to DNA caused by radiation and how to prevent exposure. Lessons include entertaining videos and require students to use inquiry skills.

Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut (Grades 8-12)
Join this international educational challenge focusing on fitness and nutrition and encouraging students to "train like an astronaut." Visit the website for free hands-on activities and standards-based lesson plans. 

Train Like an Astronaut (Ages 8-12)
Involve students in hands-on science activities that relate physical Earth-based needs to the requirements of exploring space.

A Breath of Fresh Air Lab Activity (Grades 10-12)
The Environmental Control and Life Support System on the space station produces breathable oxygen for the crew. In this Math and Science @ Work advanced chemistry lab activity, students learn about electrolysis used on the station to produce oxygen and then perform their own electrolysis.

Space Bugs TI-Nspire™ Lab Activity (Grades 10-12)
NASA scientists routinely analyze infectious agents (bacteria, viruses and fungi) that coexist with the astronauts in space. In this Math and Science @ Work advanced biology lab, students analyze models of DNA gel electrophoresis as they investigate principles of genetic engineering.

Microgravity Effects on Human Physiology: Skeletal System (Grades 10-12)
Math and Science @ Work presents a free-response question for advanced high school biology. Students apply their knowledge of feedback mechanisms and homeostasis. They evaluate the physiological impact of bone mineral loss due to long-duration spaceflight.

Respiration in Space Flight (Grades 10-12)
This problem focuses on the EECOM flight controller, who monitored the gas concentrations and pressures within the space shuttle cabin. Students are introduced to the space shuttle's CO2 removal process and analyze respiration rates and metabolic activity from graphical data provided. They relate gas production/consumption to respiration/metabolism and evaluate the physiological impact of changes in O2/CO2 concentrations to various human systems.

Microgravity Effects on Human Physiology: Circulatory System (Grades 10-12)
This problem focuses on the Flight Surgeon and his role in keeping astronauts healthy before, during and after flight. Students examine the effects of gravity on the evolution of form and function in the human circulatory system and connect space biology and related medical pathologies on Earth.

Physiology of the Circulatory System TI-Nspire™ Lab Activity (Grades 10-12)
In this lab activity, students learn about and evaluate the physiological changes of the circulatory system that occur in astronauts’ bodies when shifting from Earth’s gravity to microgravity.

Microgravity Effects on Human Physiology: Immune System (Grades 10-12)
Students learn about some of the implications of spaceflight on the immune response and connect them to classroom learning.

Maintaining Bone Mineral Density (Grades 10-12)
Students analyze two different exercise countermeasures and construct null and alternative hypotheses to determine their relative effectiveness in maintaining bone mineral density.

Oxygen Generator System (Grades 11-12)
This Math and Science @ Work advanced chemistry activity teaches students about the Oxygen Generator System on the International Space Station and how it produces breathable oxygen for the crew through the process of electrolysis.

ARED -- Resistive Exercise in Space (Grades 11-12)
The Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, or ARED, is one of the exercise devices astronauts use aboard the International Space Station. ARED uses vacuum cylinders to simulate free weights for resistive exercise that helps astronauts maintain bone and muscle strength while in space. In this activity, students analyze different aspects of the mechanics of the ARED device.

Lost in Space: Bone Density (Grades 9-11)
Students explore slope and y-intercept and solve linear equations while investigating the risks of increased loss of bone mineral density, or BMD, when the human body is in the reduced gravity of space, as compared to Earth's 1-genvironment. Students should have prior knowledge of functions, different representations of linear functions, properties of a linear function, and slope of intercept form.

Exercising in Space (Grades 9-11)
Students identify a direct variation, solve linear equations, and create tables based on the exercise equipment provided for astronauts on long-duration missions on the space station.

An Astronaut in Motion (Grades 9-11)
Students investigate how NASA researchers simulate an astronaut’s movement in a spacesuit by creating an avatar and applying transformation principles.


Human Research Racks on the ISS
Astronaut Sandra Magnus describes the technology used to do human research on the International Space Station.

Environment, Temperature and Space Debris Pose Challenges for Space Walkers 
See how the space environment is hostile to human life.

Biotechnology Experiments in Space
Protein crystals are important in the development of medicines.

NASA Now Minute: Life Science: Human Life Support on the International Space Station 
The environmental and thermal operating systems monitor the life support system and the cooling system on the International Space Station. Find out from ETHOS operator Tess Caswell about the role of chemistry in making sure the astronauts aboard the space station have oxygen to breathe, water to drink, and a comfortable temperature in which to live and work.

How Space Exploration Affects Astronauts' Bones 
Learn how the bones of the human body are affected by the microgravity of space.

How Space Exploration Affects Muscles 
Exercise relieves stress, burns fat, and keeps our heart and muscles strong. Exposure to reduced gravity during space exploration can leave astronauts with weak muscles and less coordination.

Exercise Helps Keep Astronauts Healthy in Space 
Exercise is essential for our astronauts to maintain healthy bones, muscles and hearts during spaceflight and exploration missions.

Radiation and Human Space Exploration
Just outside the protective layer of Earth’s atmosphere and magnetosphere is a universe full of radiation. What happens to our bodies when we leave the surface of Earth to travel in space or visit the International Space Station?

Space Faring: The Radiation Challenge Videos for Middle School
The following videos are part of the Space Radiation Challenge Middle School Unit.
Act 1: What Is Radiation and Where Does It Come From? 
Act 2: Space Radiation and Human Health
Act 3: Protection From Space Radiation

Space Faring: The Radiation Challenge Videos for High School
The following videos are part of the Space Radiation Challenge High School Unit.
High School Act 1: What Is Radiation and Where Does It Come From? 
High School Act 2: Space Radiation and Human Health
High School Act 3: Protection From Space Radiation

ISS Update: How Long-Duration Spaceflight Affects Health
NASA nutritionist Scott Smith talks about how nutrition and microgravity affect vision and health.

NASA Now Minute: Human Research on the ISS
Liz Warren, NASA's Johnson Space Center operations lead for the International Space Station Medical Project, discusses why exercise and nutrition are important to maintaining good health on Earth and even more important to astronauts in space.

Interview With Steve Platts, Lead Scientist, Cardiovascular Research
NASA public affairs officer Josh Byerly talks with Steven Platts, Ph.D., a lead scientist for cardiovascular research at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, where scientists are studying the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body.

Interview With Stuart Lee, Lead Scientist, Cardiovascular Lab
NASA public affairs officer Josh Byerly talks with Stuart Lee, one of the lead scientists for the Cardiovascular Lab at NASA's Johnson Space Center, where scientists are studying the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body.

ISS Update: SPRINT Exercise Program
NASA public affairs officer Amiko Kauderer interviews Lori Ploutz-Snyder, Ph.D., NASA’s lead exercise physiology scientist, about the SPRINT exercise program used by the crew members aboard the International Space Station.

ISS Update: Bone Health in Space
NASA public affairs officer Brandi Dean interviews Jean Sibonga, Ph.D., bone lead of the Human Research Program, about the changes in bone structure and bone loss as a result of long-term missions in space and countermeasures such as exercise, diet and drugs to maintain crew health.

NASA Now Minute: Astronaut Health on the International Space Station
The space environment is extreme. Hear how Stephanie Carrizales Flint, a biomedical engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and her team develop and monitor systems making the International Space Station a safe place for the crew to live and work.

Our World: Exercise Equipment
Learn about the exercise equipment used by the astronauts in space to keep astronauts fit and healthy. Compare this equipment to the exercise equipment we use here on Earth.

Our World: Exercise in Space
Find out why exercise is so important to the astronauts who travel into space. Learn how gravity affects our bodies and what astronauts must do in reduced-gravity environments to keep their bodies healthy.


Patches for a Broken Heart
Using a space-age device called a bioreactor, researchers have grown patches of tissue that beat and respond much as a human heart does.

Mission X 2012: Train Like an Astronaut
NASA EDGE visited Cumberland School in East London for the Mission X 2012 International Celebration event.

Do-It-Yourself Podcast: Fitness in Space
Flex your creative muscle and make your own podcast about staying fit, even in space.

Space Bones
Being weightless looks like a lot of fun, but prolonged exposure to microgravity can have some negative side effects -- like the weakening of human bones!

NASA -- Gravity in the Brain
Playing catch looks easy, but there's more to it than meets the eye. This story explains how a ball-catching experiment in space revealed that human brains have a built-in model of gravity.  


NASA Anatomy: How Space Technology Improves Human Health
For more than 40 years, NASA technology has contributed to the development of commercial products and services that benefit the public. These videos explain major contributions to the fields of health and medicine.

Related Sites

NASA's Human Research Program
The Human Research Program conducts research and develops technologies that allow humans to travel safely and productively in space.

Yeast Studies in Microgravity Raising New Treatment Potential for Infections on Earth
A space station experiment studying yeast could help prevent and treat infections on Earth and during spaceflight.

Exercise Prescriptions Important on Space Station
The SPRINT Study uses exercise training for astronauts on the space station to decrease the negative effects of microgravity on their bodies.

Good Diet, Proper Exercise Help Protect Astronauts' Bones
Data from a 2012 study show significant progress in protecting astronauts' bones in space through good nutrition and exercise.

Putting on a Thinking Cap for Brain Research on the Space Station
In an entry in "A Lab Aloft," guest blogger astronaut Bob Thirsk shares with readers his perspective as a test subject for investigations on the station.

New Findings on Astronaut Vision Loss
Approximately 20 percent of astronauts living on the International Space Station have reported post-flight vision changes. Does nutrition contribute to the changes?

Earlier Detection of Bone Loss May Be Possible in the Future
A new technique detects bone loss by analyzing the isotopes of the chemical element calcium that are naturally present in urine.

Tumbleweeds in the Bloodstream
Molecule-sized sensors inside astronauts' cells could warn of health impacts from space radiation.

Mysterious Cancer
Researchers agree that space radiation can cause cancer. They're just not sure how.

Sweating for Science
Learn how NASA engineers transform sweat and urine into pure drinking water.

NASA-supported sleep researchers are learning new and surprising things about naps.

Why Do Workouts Work?
By exploring how and why exercise causes muscles to grow, scientists hope to help astronauts avoid muscle atrophy.
Page Last Updated: July 27th, 2016
Page Editor: Flint Wild