Skip to page content Mission Information


Cardiovascular Health Consequences of Long-Duration Space Flight (VASCULAR)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Cardiovascular physiology
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Our overall objective is to determine how long-duration space flight might alter key indicators of cardiovascular health. This is relevant because space flight is often described as accelerating the aging process and one major concern could be change in blood vessel structure and function with the advancement of atherosclerosis. Here, we outline a plan to obtain blood samples that will provide information on the key variables that can influence vascular health and we will obtain quantitative data on the functional characteristics of the blood vessels. Importantly, we will be able to evaluate the relative contributions of the inflammatory process associated with vascular disease and of the long-term effects of altered arterial pressure gradients on vascular function. We will also take the opportunity to link these data on vascular health to cardiac rhythm.

Long-term habitation of the International Space Station is exposing the human body to many unique stressors that could have life-long implications for cardiovascular health. The chronic change in gravitational forces, the alteration in physical activity patterns, and social factors associated with confinement could impact structural and functional properties of the vascular system and induce changes such as accelerated development of atherosclerosis that parallel the aging process. We hypothesize that long-duration space travel will be associated with increased blood concentrations of markers (e.g. blood proteins) indicative of vascular growth, inflammation and oxidative stress. We also hypothesize that these blood markers will accompany gravity-induced alterations in structure of arterial walls (e.g. thinner artery walls), especially in the crewmember’s legs. These blood markers of vascular growth, inflammation and stress will be obtained from blood samples before launch, in-flight and on return to Earth and they will be correlated with non-invasive functional testing including ultrasounds of vascular dimensions, vascular compliance (elasticity), endothelium dependent dilation of arteries in the arm and the leg (using simple exercises and cuff occlusion) and endothelium independent dilation of arteries in the arm and the leg (by administering a nitroglycerin spray). The impact of these functional tests will also be evaluated for short-term cardiovascular health by comparing the altered vascular dilatory processes to the results from the upright posture testing phases of the current experiments (sit and stand) on return from ISS. We also hypothesize that even in the presence of vascular processes that have long-term health implications there will be no disturbance in cardiac rhythm monitored in 24-hour Holter recordings during ISS missions. These experiments will provide new information on cardiovascular structural and functional adaptations to long-duration space flight - changes that might impact crewmember’s lifelong health, even beyond their return from ISS or during future Mars missions.

++ -- View more

Data Information
Data Availability
Archiving in progress. Data is not yet available for this experiment.

Arterial wall structure
Blood pressure
Blood proteins
Cardiac rhythm
++ -- View more

Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Expedition 21 10/11/2009 12/01/2009 51 days
Expedition 22 11/30/2009 03/18/2010 109 days
Expedition 23 03/18/2010 06/01/2010 75 days
Expedition 24 06/01/2010 09/25/2010 117 days
Expedition 25 09/24/2010 11/25/2010 31 days
Expedition 26 11/26/2010 03/16/2011 111 days
Expedition 27 03/14/2011 05/23/2011 70 days
Expedition 28 05/23/2011 09/15/2011 115 days
Expedition 29 09/16/2011 11/21/2011 40 days
Expedition 30 11/14/2011 04/27/2012 166 days
Expedition 34 11/18/2012 03/15/2013 117 days
Expedition 35 03/15/2013 05/13/2013 58 days
Expedition 36 05/13/2013 09/10/2013 166 days
Expedition 37 09/10/2013 11/10/2013 61 days

Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Johnson Space Center LSDA Office
Project Manager: Pamela A. Bieri
Institutional Support
Canadian Space Agency (CSA)
Alternate Experiment Name