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Jeffrey P. Sutton, M.D., Ph.D.

Baylor College of Medicine is expanding its renowned research and education programs in the Center for Space Medicine to include cutting-edge aerospace medicine for commercial space missions.

“We are thrilled about this new frontier and uncharted territory that we are moving in to,” said Dr. Jeffrey Sutton, director of the Center for Space Medicine. “This positions the Center for Space Medicine to become a leader in integrated research, education and clinical activities related to space medicine in an academic setting.”

Baylor recently was designated as an FAA Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation. The College now joins the Florida Institute of Technology, Florida State University, the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, New Mexico State University, Stanford University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Florida, and The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston as FAA Centers of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation. 

In addition, the Center for Space Medicine is partnering with Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial space travel company, to provide medical services to ensure health and safety for the passengers and pilots on board Virgin Galactic suborbital flights.

Two new senior faculty members in the Center for Space Medicine will help lead these efforts. Dr. James Vanderploeg and Dr. Tarah Castleberry are accomplished specialists in aerospace medicine with extensive experience spanning civilian and military aviation medicine and aerospace medicine at The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and flight surgeon support for NASA’s Johnson Space Center and Virgin Galactic.

The Center for Space Medicine was established in 2008 and offers the only four-year Space Medicine Track for medical students in the U.S. In 2016, the center was awarded a NASA cooperative agreement for up to $246 million to lead the Translational Research Institute for Space Health. The focus of the institute is to discover bold new ideas and treatments through cutting-edge research that can be applied to long-duration space flight missions, including NASA’s journey to Mars.

In addition to the Center for Space Medicine, Baylor headquartered the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI), which was established in 1997 and focused on understanding risks inherent to long-duration human space flight and translating those findings to improve health on Earth. NSBRI funding ran through September 2017.