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Ann Hutchison March 19, 2001

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

(Phone: 650/604-3039 or 650/604-9000)


NOTE TO EDITORS: Experts in a variety of life sciences and human adaptation disciplines at NASA’s Ames Research Center will be available this week to discuss the challenges that await the first residents of the International Space Station when they return to Earth. Reporters interested in talking to an Ames expert should contact Ann Hutchison at 650/604-3039 to arrange a telephone or in-person interview.


Learning how to walk again is just one of the problems the first International Space Station astronaut crew may face as they readjust to Earth’s gravity following 4-1/2 months in a weightless environment. Other problems may include difficulty maintaining balance, reduced muscle strength, loss of bone mass and sleep disruptions.

Experts at NASA’s Ames Research Center who are studying these and other spaceflight-related physical and psychological changes will be available this week for telephone or in-person interviews. The scientists can discuss the effects of a weightless environment on long-duration space travelers in general, but they will not address issues specific to astronaut William Shepherd, cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev and cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko. The three space explorers, who have lived on the International Space Station since Nov. 2, 2000, are set to return to Earth aboard the space shuttle Discovery on March 21.

The scientists’ research into how gravity affects living systems, from cells in culture to physiological studies in animals and humans, eventually may lead to the development of countermeasures to the effects of long-duration exposure to zero gravity. These solutions will impact future interplanetary explorers, as well as helping us to better understand certain medical disorders experienced on Earth, such as osteoporosis and balance disorders.

Other Ames scientists are doing research and development that will adapt the technology of the future to the humans who interact with aerospace systems. This work covers many areas, including development of displays to enhance balance and spatial orientation; studies of the psychological and emotional effects of space travel; sleep disruptions and human performance; telemedicine; and experimental and theoretical analysis of vision, hearing, attention and motor control. Telemedicine -- the integration of telecommunications, computer and medical technologies -- permits NASA to monitor the physiological and medical impact of space flight on astronauts. NASA telemedicine technologies also have found many applications in the delivery of health care on Earth.



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