Data Collection Facility
Chris Miller -- a biomechanical engineer at Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas -- runs an obstacle course in the
Baseline Data Collection Facility at Kennedy Space Center,
Space Station Expedition Five crewmembers are taking part in a series
of experiments designed to help scientists find ways to help astronauts
counter the effects of long-duration space flight on balance, mobility
and eye coordination.
-- which will use an obstacle course, a treadmill and a revolving
chair -- could also lead to better testing methods and treatment
for people on Earth who suffer balance and coordination problems
because of birth defects, illness or aging.
who volunteered for the experiments underwent their first postflight
tests in the Baseline Data Collection Facility, or BDCF, at Kennedy
Space Center, Fla., before they returned to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where their tests are continuing.
human research program is managed at JSC, KSC provides support with
the BDCF, an example of the interdependence of NASA centers and
the "One NASA" concept.
Bloomberg, a senior research scientist in the JSC Neurosciences
Laboratory and the principal investigator in one of the upcoming
experiments, stressed the importance of the BDCF to national and
international researchers studying various aspects of astronaut
physiology from bone loss to neurologic effects.
at Kennedy can you study the astronauts' response to space flight
immediately after they land," Bloomberg said. "That's crucial to
our understanding of how the astronauts are affected."
Five volunteers, who spent months living aboard the station, began
their testing soon after Space Shuttle Endeavour landed Dec. 7,
2002, completing mission STS-113.
who spend months in orbit typically take about 10 days to gradually
regain their balance and coordination, Bloomberg said. While those
effects of weightlessness are uncomfortable on Earth, the discomfort
would be greater for longer-term missions to Mars. It would hinder
astronauts and leave them vulnerable after their landing on Mars.
we will be able to use the data from the Expedition Five crew and
future crews to find training methods that will allow long-term
station inhabitants to more quickly recover their balance and coordination
when they return to a gravity environment," Bloomberg said. "It
also has promising potential for the elderly and others who could
undergo training to strengthen their balance and coordination."
Gil Clement, left, assists Dr. Scott Wood in preparation
for a test run in the BDCF's revolving chair.|
out that many senior citizens who break their bones first have a
period of unsteadiness that precedes the fall. These balance disturbances
are a typical part of the aging process, but they can be minimized
through training, Bloomberg said.
average person is aware of the need to add calcium to their diet
and to work on strength training for the muscles and aerobic exercise
to strengthen their heart, but they don't know about the importance
of training for balance and coordination," Bloomberg said.
The BDCF is
staffed by Bionetics and managed by NASA-KSC's International Space
Station/Payloads Processing Directorate.
the BDCF work to facilitate human research by NASA scientists and
NASA-funded scientists across the world," said Mimi Shao, a
Bionetics' research scientist from the Life Sciences Flight Experiment
Program at KSC. "It is rewarding to support research that is
designed to maximize the safety, efficiency and effectiveness of
space exploration. My personal motivation stems from improvements
in medical science and the promise of life-enhancing breathroughs
for the astronauts and the general population here on Earth."
photos for this story were provided by Kennedy Space Center's Spaceport