NASA has teamed up with two universities to study ways to reduce the
adverse effects of space travel has on astronauts’ physical heath.

This month scientists are conducting a pilot study at NASA’s Ames
Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., on the 20-G centrifuge, a
machine that creates artificial gravity forces by spinning and that
can simulate up to 20 times the normal forces of gravity we
experience on Earth.

“The 20-G Centrifuge is our largest facility certified for use by
humans,” said Jeff Smith, a manager in the Life Sciences Division at
Ames. “Its capabilities make it a unique NASA resource and a very
versatile research tool that is ideal for developing
health-maintenance activities for astronauts.”

Research conducted using the 20-G centrifuge helps scientists
understand how astronauts cope with long-term exposure to the low
gravity of space or other planets and readjust to Earth’s gravity,
when they return home. Scientists at NASA, the University of Kentucky
in Lexington and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., will
study the effects of exercise and artificial gravity on
cardiovascular responses and fluid shifts within the body.

“At Ames Research Center, the existing facilities we use to learn how
space affects humans have a long history of productivity that
includes work done from Mercury to space station and space shuttle
programs,” said Dr. Yvonne Cagle, NASA astronaut-scientist liaison,
and project study scientist. “Researchers and collaborating
investigators continue to produce a wealth of knowledge concerning
astronaut and civilian health issues,” she added.

The research is expected to help determine what combinations of
exercise and exposure to increased gravity effectively counters the
changes that occur during space travel.

“While in space, astronauts experience heart and blood vessel
changes, decreased bone strength, loss of muscle mass, and shifts in
fluids within their bodies,” said Ames’ exercise physiologist and
study scientist Fritz Moore. “This does not immediately harm the
astronauts, but it may complicate longer space travel and make the
return to Earth difficult.”

Scientists will examine the effects of exercise on the test subjects
while spinning on the centrifuge. Helping astronauts counter the
changes to their bodies also may further the development of health
benefits for the general public.

“The knowledge we gain here helps us understand everyday health
issues such as high or low blood pressure.” Moore said. “The changes
that astronauts experience are very similar to those seen in people
who are less active or frequently confined to bed rest, such as
individuals in our rapidly growing senior population. It is very
likely that space medicine and geriatric medicine will interact and
help us understand the best ways to arrive home from space, as well
as the best ways to grow old.”

Additional research is needed to understand the health effects of
transitioning between different gravitational environments. This type
of research benefits current and future astronauts supporting the
Vision for Space Exploration to return to the moon and continue on to

For more information about Ames centrifuge facilities, visit: