How does space travel affect your health? What does an astronaut aboard the International Space Station have in common with a scientist that is wintering over in Antarctica?
These and many other questions were answered by current and former astronauts during a recent visit by nearly 200 students to the National Space Biomedical Research Institute headquarters in Houston. The students, from the DeBakey High School for Health Professions, participated in the “STEM: On and Off the Planet” workshop, as part of an overall program to encourage students to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“Students who have already expressed an interest in the health professions had the unique, up-close opportunity to tour the NSBRI’s Consolidated Research Facility (CRF),” said Dr. Amanda Hackler, head of career development and outreach at NSBRI, and assistant professor within the Center for Space Medicine and School of Allied Health Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine. “They were also able to interact directly with astronauts who have experienced what happens to the body in space and who can attest to the very real need for more scientific studies that address health issues faced by space explorers.”
The students toured the CRF which features exhibits including a Russian space suit, scientific equipment tested aboard the ISS, as well as information showcasing the Mars 500 study - a simulated journey to Mars lasting 520 days and conducted in Russia with participation by NSBRI-funded scientists. The exhibits they viewed also included a section from the parachute used in the recent Red Bull Stratos jump from the stratosphere. Dr. Jonathan Clark, NSBRI space medicine advisor and associate professor within the CSM and Baylor’s department of neurology served as medical director for the history-making free fall from 128,000 feet by Felix Baumgartner.
“It was important for students to understand that the health issues facing humans in space are serious and that we are funding studies that not only will help keep our space explorers safe, but will translate to new kinds of treatment back here on Earth,” said Hackler. “To have the chance to talk directly with astronauts who have spent time in space and who are now conducting space biomedical research was invaluable and very motivational for the students.”
The DeBakey High School for Health Professions, in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine, opened in 1972 and was the first of its kind in the nation. A magnet school of the Houston Independent School District, DHSHP provides a rigorous and comprehensive pre-college program for students pursuing careers in medicine, health care, and/or the sciences. Ninety-eight percent of HSHP’s graduates attain post-secondary education.
Established in 1997 through a NASA competition, NSBRI is a consortium of leading biomedical institutions. It is based at Baylor College of Medicine and includes Brookhaven National Laboratory, Harvard Medical School, The Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Morehouse School of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Rice University, Texas A&M University, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, University of Pennsylvania Health System and University of Washington. NSBRI, a 501(c)(3) organization partnered with NASA, is studying the health risks related to long-duration spaceflight and developing the technologies and countermeasures needed for human space exploration missions. The Institute's science, technology and education projects take place at approximately 60 institutions across the United States.
Learn more about the NSBRI.