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Human Research Program

The human research conducted at the GRC focuses on exercise, physiology, exploration medical capability, and other related issues.

About the Human Research Program

The Human Research Program (HRP) was established in 2005 at Johnson Space Center in response to NASA’s refocus of the space program on exploration. The Agency’s human research investment was redirected to investigate and mitigate the highest risks to human health and performance in support of future exploration missions.

THE MISSION of NASA’s Human Research Program is to enable space exploration beyond low Earth orbit by reducing the risks to human health and performance through a focused program of basic, applied, and operational research that leads to the development and delivery of human health, performance, and habitability standards, countermeasures and risk mitigation solutions, and advanced habitability and medical support technologies. HRP performs research and technology development to support next-generation systems that enable humans to live and work safely and effectively in space.

The Human Research Program is comprised of five Elements: Research Operations & Integration (ROI), Space Radiation (SR), Human Health Countermeasures (HHC), Exploration Medical Capability (ExMC), and Human Factors and Behavioral Performance (HFBP). Each manages research and technology development tasks that are conducted by external and intramural NASA investigators. View more information on NASA’s Human Research Program at Johnson Space Center.

Human Research for risk reduction
Human Research for Risk Reduction in Sustainable Human Exploration

How Glenn Research Center Supports HRP

NASA HRP leverages Glenn Research Center’s unique expertise in computational simulation, systems engineering, and microgravity fluid physics and combustion science. GRC’s HRP focus is not on the biology or human studies, but rather on adapting terrestrial medicine technology to the unique challenges of spaceflight. Our computational work quantifies both how the body will change due to varying gravity levels associated with spaceflight, as well as simulations to quantify human risk associated with those missions.

NASA’s HRP focuses on closing risks associated with exploration missions. GRC supports HRP by providing solutions to critical problems that place astronauts and their missions at risk. We focus on developing the technologies needed to close gaps in Exploration Medical Capabilities, Human Health Countermeasures, Space Radiation, and within the HRP Maturation and Integration Office. We use Computational Modeling as a primary tool for quantifying risk associated with human exploration missions, quantifying changes in the human body due to altered gravity and determining optimal clinic layout in vehicles and habitats.

GRC has unique expertise in microgravity fluid physics, microgravity combustion science, sensors, diagnostics and imaging, computational simulation (deterministic and probabilistic), microfluidics, and spaceflight experiment payload development, with over 150 payloads flown on sounding rockets, Spacelab, Spacehab, MIR, and ISS. Because of our specialized, multi-discipline bioengineering experience, HRP selected GRC to lead the Computational Modeling Project. Our subject matter experts also provide guidance to the program in implementing NASA STD 7009A, the standard for models and simulations, and provide support for analyzing or improving the credibility of the results of computational models and simulations.

IVGEN Flight Hardware
IVGEN flight hardware on International Space Station

GRC’s role in the Human Research Program also extends to several hardware development projects, some of which have been, or are planned to be, demonstrated on the International Space Station. These projects include the Intravenous Fluid Generation to produce fluid for intravenous use, Exploration Lab Analysis which evaluates commercially available compact devices to perform medical analytics (examples include the HemoCue and rHEALTH ONE devices), Medical Consumables Tracking to track the usage of consumables used for medical treatment, and a Flexible Ultrasound System for conducting a variety of ultrasound scans.

Thinning bones astronauts

Computational Modeling

Computational modeling is the use of computers to simulate and study the behavior of complex systems using mathematics, physics, and computer science. Researchers at NASA Glenn are specifically helping to quantify spaceflight-induced changes in human physiology to help characterize the risks to astronauts during exploration missions. Today, scientific computing is vital to NASA’s research programs. … Read the rest ⇢

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Exploration Medical Technologies

As NASA prepares to extend human exploration beyond low Earth orbit, the human research program is working to develop medical technologies for in-flight diagnosis and treatment.  Identifying and testing medical care and crew health maintenance technologies is vital to providing capabilities for astronauts on long duration exploration missions. The mission of the Exploration Medical Capability … Read the rest ⇢

Glenn Harness
The Glenn Harness improves comfort for the International Space Station crew during treadmill exercise.

Advanced Exercise Concepts

Given that skeletal muscles undergo reduced mass, strength and endurance in flight, there is a possibility the crew will be physically unable to perform mission tasks. There will be vehicle’s configuration constraints for long duration exploration missions including size, mass, and power capacity for an exercise system. Glenn Research Center has developed the functional requirements … Read the rest ⇢

Orion Solar Deploy-Wide Version

Discuss our research

Because the Human Research Program (HRP) is a risk-based program, all of the countermeasures and technologies we strive to develop are for the purpose of mitigating the highest risks to human health and performance. For each risk, HRP identifies gaps in knowledge about characterizing the risk and ability to mitigate the risk. Glenn Research Center’s … Read the rest ⇢

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