Space Life Science

Senate Hearing on NASA Science

By Keith Cowing
June 8, 2006

Senate Commerce Committee’s Subscommittee on Science and Space Hearing: NASA Budget and Programs: Outside Perspectives

Statement by Charles Bolden
Statement by Peter Voorhees
Statement by Roy Torbert
Statement by James Pawelczyk

“The next generations of space life scientists perceive a bitter lesson that is difficult to assuage: as the result of a shell game of agency-wide reorganization, life science is no longer recognized or valued within NASA.”

“Musculoskeletal deconditioning remains a paramount concern. In the past two years our ability to differentiate the trabecular bone network in the hip has helped us to appreciate that the risk to bone during spaceflight may be even greater than we previously anticipated. The rate of osteoporosis in astronauts equal patients with spinal cord injury, and exceeds that seen in post-menopausal women by a factor of 10 or more.”

“Extrapolating from published studies of astronauts and cosmonauts spending up to six months in low-earth orbit, we can offer preliminary estimates of the changes that would occur if humans made a 30-month trip to Mars today:

100% of crew members would lose more than 15% of their bone mineral in the femur and hip; Approximately 80% would lose more than 25% of their bone mineral; More than 40% would lose greater than 50% of their bone mineral; Approximately 20% would lose more than 25% of their exercise capacity; Approximately 40% would lose experience a decline in leg muscle strength of 30% or more.

Each of these predictions takes into the account the fact that astronauts would be using the best countermeasures available currently!

To my knowledge, no engineer would accept a spaceflight system where such degradation is expected. Nor should it be so for astronauts.”

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻