Recovery of Functional Sensorimotor Performance Following Long Duration Space Flight (Field Test) - 01.16.19

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ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Astronauts and cosmonauts that live in space for six months to a year experience physical changes that have noticeable effects once they return to Earth’s gravity, including changes to vision, balance, coordination, blood pressure, and the ability to walk, which impact their ability to perform basic tasks. Current crews land on Earth with immediate access to medical assistance and rehabilitation facilities, but future crews traveling to Mars, or other destinations won’t have these resources or much time to recover from the changes upon arrival. The Field Test investigation includes several studies designed by scientists from NASA and Russia to investigate the complexity, severity, and duration of these changes, with an aim toward improving recovery time and developing injury prevention methods for future missions.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Millard F. Reschke, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: N/A

Principal Investigator(s)
Millard F. Reschke, Ph.D., Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States
Inessa B. Kozlovskaya, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., Institute of Biomedical Problems, Moscow, Russia

Ilya Rukavishnikov, Institute of Biomedical Problems, Moscow, Russia
Elena Tomilovskaya, Institute of Biomedical Problems, Moscow, Russia
Jacob J. Bloomberg, Ph.D., NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States
Steven H. Platts, Ph.D., NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States
Elena Fomina, M.D., Institute of Biomedical Problems, Moscow, Russia
Michael B. Stenger, Ph.D., KBRwyle, Houston, TX, United States
Stuart M. C. Lee, Ph.D., KBRwyle, Houston, TX, United States
Scott J. Wood, Ph.D., Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, CA, United States
Alan H. Feiveson, Ph.D., Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States
Ajitkumar P. Mulavara, Ph.D., Universities Space Research Association, Houston, TX, United States
Kara Beaton, Ph.D., Wyle Science, Technology, and Engineering Group, Houston, TX, United States

NASA Johnson Space Center, Human Research Program, Houston, TX, United States
Institute of Biomedical Problems, Sensorimotor Laboratory, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
NASA - Human Research Program (NASA-HRP)

Research Benefits
Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2015 - March 2016; March 2016 - April 2017; September 2017 - October 2018

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
A subset of the Field Test, called the Pilot Field Test (PFT), has been collected at multiple time points on R+0 on 18 astronauts and cosmonauts beginning with the 34S mission and ending with the 41S mission.

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Immediately after spaceflight, crew members experience balance and coordination disturbances, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, as well as neurological changes that affect their ability to see clearly while walking. NASA is planning future missions to Mars and other planetary surfaces. On these missions, crew members will not have anyone to assist them once they land. This brings up the questions of what the crew members will be capable of doing after landing, and when they will be capable of doing it.
  • This research tests, among other things, the crew member’s ability to stand up from a seated position, recover from falling, walk and step over obstacles without assistance, remain standing without fainting or losing his or her balance, and see clearly while moving. Crew members are tested as soon as possible after landing – either in the tent at the Soyuz landing site (0.5-1.5 hours after landing) or at the Karaganda/Kustanai airport in Kazakhstan (2-5 hours after landing). They are then tested two more times:  once about 10 hours after landing at the refueling site in Scotland (astronauts) and at Star City (cosmonauts), and again about 24 hours after landing at Johnson Space Center (astronauts) and, if possible, at Star City (cosmonauts). With these multiple data points on landing day, it is possible to determine when a crew member is able to perform certain tasks after landing. Because this testing is performed immediately after landing and repeated on the same day several times, an added benefit to the crew members is a more rapid recovery of performance.
  • The information learned from this experiment helps mission planning personnel determine what operations the crew members can perform safely immediately after landing at sea, or on a distant planet or asteroid.

Astronauts and cosmonauts experience alterations in multiple physiological systems due to exposure to the microgravity conditions of space flight. These physiological changes include, among others, sensorimotor disturbances, cardiovascular deconditioning and loss of muscle mass and strength.  Changes in these systems clearly lead to disruption in the ability to ambulate and perform functional tasks during the initial reintroduction to a gravitational environment following a prolonged weightless transit and may cause significant impairments in performance of operational tasks immediately following landing on a planetary surface. Severe impairments may lead to loss of mission. To date changes in functional performance have been systematically studied for short duration space flights (Arzeno et al. 2012; Bloomberg et al. 2012; Reschke et al. 2011) and has recently begun on the long duration ISS space flights (first data collection delayed until the 2nd day following landing). As important as these observed postflight functional changes have been, responses within an hour following landing and a recovery time constant beginning as near to the time of landing as possible through full functional recovery has never been investigated or established for long duration flights. The objective of this experiment is to address this gap in knowledge, allowing us to understand the impact of functional performance on tasks that are representative of critical mission requirements that the crews of exploratory missions will be expected to perform after an unassisted landing following flights from 6 to 12 months in duration.  Findings from this investigation will provide the information needed for planning future Mars, or other deep space missions, with unassisted landings.

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Space Applications
Crew members experience multiple physical changes after spending time in microgravity, including sensorimotor changes, loss of muscle tone, and reduced cardiovascular fitness. These changes can affect their ability to walk normally and perform certain tasks, and recovery is not immediate. This poses a challenge for crew members who may travel to planets or other distant targets, where coordination and physical fitness are a necessity upon arrival. The Field Test investigation assesses the ability of crew members, both before flight and multiple times after landing, to perform tasks representative of those likely to be required after an unassisted landing on a planetary surface. Knowing how reintroduction to gravity after 6 to 12 months of weightlessness affects the ability to perform such tasks, and how quickly that ability is recovered, is expected to provide important information for planning of future exploratory missions.

Earth Applications
Patients on bed rest, people recovering from injury, and people with limited mobility also experience some physical changes akin to those reported by orbiting crewmembers. Understanding how long it takes space travelers to recover from a long-duration stay in microgravity also benefits patients with mobility problems on Earth.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

  • 30 subjects (15 USOS and 15 Russian)
  • Test sessions:
    • Three pre-flight sessions and one garment measuring session - testing windows are (+/- 20 days with 20 days in between each session).
    • Three landing day sessions – at approximately 2 - 5 hours, 10 hours, and 24 hours after landing.
    • One additional post-flight session 7 to 11 days after landing for subjects on approximately six-month missions, and five additional post-flight sessions on 1, 4, 6, 15 and 30 days after landing for subjects on one-year missions.
  • Session constraints:
    • No alcohol consumption within 4 hours prior to testing.
    • Maintain normal behavior patterns for intake of alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine prior to testing (i.e., if subject normally drinks a glass of wine at night or has a cup of coffee in the morning, this is acceptable). Exposure to unusual motion conditions (e.g., amusement park rides) should be avoided 24 hours prior to testing.
    • Medication taken 24 hours prior to test session needs to be documented.
    • Tests that require maximal exercise should be scheduled after the Field Test if they fall on the same day.
    • If Field Test falls on the same day as eye dilation, Field Test must be performed first.
    • If Field Test falls on the same day as muscle biopsy, Field Test must be performed first.
    • No ocular ultrasound (with gel) within 1 hour before testing.
  • Constraints specific to the Gradient Compression Garment measurement session:
    • No maximal exercise testing or sessions/bouts (80% max heart rate for more than 30 min) for the 24 hours prior to testing.
    • No exercise within 4 hours of the test.
    • No heavy meals within 4 hours of measurement session. Light snack within 2 hours of testing is acceptable.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Animal and Human Biology AH7

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Results/More Information

This study measured the intensity of in-flight aerobic and resistive exercise and postflight motor changes in astronaut Mikhail Kornienko (KM) who completed a long-duration mission of 1 year, and 6 other control cosmonauts who completed shorter missions. The results showed that relative to the control group, KM experienced more significant changes in the physiological cost index of the soleus (i.e., metabolic expenditure in the postural calf muscle) and voluntary strength of the leg extensors. A decrease in the strength of the leg flexors was comparable between KM and the control cosmonauts. Additionally, KM experienced increased strength of the femoral flexors by 19%, whereas femoral extensors remained at preflight levels. Overall, it appears that Russian exercise countermeasures are efficacious. These findings suggest that astronauts can maintain adequate physical health during long duration missions as long as the right type and amount of exercise is implemented in-flight.

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Results Publications

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

    Stenger MB, Lee SM, Westby CM, Ribeiro LC, Phillips TR, Martin DS, Platts SH.  Abdomen-high elastic gradient compression garments during post-spaceflight stand tests. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine. 2013 May; 84(5): 459-466. DOI: 10.3357/ASEM.3528.2013. PMID: 23713210.

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Related Websites
"Balancing" the One-Year Mission Risks
“Taking the First Step”

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image NASA Image: JSC2015E043611 - Photographic Documentation of Recovery of Functional Sensorimotor and Cardiovascular Performance Following Long Duration Space Flight (Field Test).
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image NASA Image: JSC2015E043658 - Photographic Documentation of Recovery of Functional Sensorimotor and Cardiovascular Performance Following Long Duration Space Flight (Field Test).
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image NASA Image: JSC2015E043666 - Photographic Documentation of Recovery of Functional Sensorimotor and Cardiovascular Performance Following Long Duration Space Flight (Field Test).
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image NASA Image: JSC2015E045948 - Photographic Documentation of Recovery of Functional Sensorimotor and Cardiovascular Performance Following Long Duration Space Flight (Field Test).
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image A portable tent for the Expedition 39 crew is used for the crew to remove their spacesuits and have medical checks after landing in a Soyuz capsule near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on May 14, 2014. A similar tent will be used to conduct the exercises supporting the Field Test investigation. Image Credit: NASA
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image A recent photograph of cosmonauts soon after returning to Earth shows how differently space travelers recover from flight. The cosmonaut at left needs the assistance of three people to physically support him as he walks; the cosmonaut at right only has one person to "spot" him. Image Credit: NASA
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