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Quantitative CT and MRI-based Modeling Assessment of Dynamic Vertebral Strength and Injury Risk Following Long-Duration Spaceflight (NNX16AP89G)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Muscle physiology
Skeletal physiology
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Astronauts exposed to microgravity for extended periods have incurred damage to their musculoskeletal systems. There is concern that the changes observed may lead to reduced performance and an increased risk of injury, including fractures, when dynamic loads are experienced. This experiment is a flight definition investigation in which the investigators hypothesize that crewmembers exposed to long-duration microgravity will exhibit profound degradation in cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertebrae and spinal musculature. It is further hypothesized that spaceflight-induced changes to crewmember vertebrae and spinal musculature will result in reduced vertebral strength and increased fracture risk from dynamic loading.

The central objective of this investigation is to quantify the dynamic strength changes in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertebrae incurred following long-duration microgravity exposure. Specific objectives are to:

  1. Quantify vertebral geometry, volume, cortical thickness, and volumetric bone mineral density (vBMD) changes and spinal muscle volume changes in pre- and postflight medical images of crewmembers on long-duration ISS missions.
  2. Quantify vertebral strength and assess injury risk in dynamic simulations with a human body model (HBM) altered to represent long-duration ISS crewmembers’ pre- and postflight vertebrae and spinal musculature.

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Spinal fractures
Bone mineral density

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

Blood pressure
Bone mineral content (BMC)
Bone volume (BV)
Cortical thickness
Muscle cross-sectional area - CSA
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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Expedition 58 12/18/2018 03/14/2019 85 days
Expedition 59 03/14/2019 06/24/2019 102 days
Expedition 60 06/24/2019 10/03/2019 101 days
Expedition 61 10/03/2019 02/06/2020 126 days
Expedition 62 02/06/2020 04/17/2020 70 days
Expedition 63 04/17/2020 10/21/2020 187 days
Expedition 64 10/21/2020 04/16/2021 177 days
Expedition 65 04/16/2021 10/17/2021 184 days
Ground 05/01/2009 In Progress

Human Research Program (HRP) Human Research Roadmap (HRR) Information
Crew health and performance is critical to successful human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The Human Research Program (HRP) investigates and mitigates the highest risks to human health and performance, providing essential countermeasures and technologies for human space exploration. Risks include physiological and performance effects from hazards such as radiation, altered gravity, and hostile environments, as well as unique challenges in medical support, human factors, and behavioral health support. The HRP utilizes an Integrated Research Plan (IRP) to identify the approach and research activities planned to address these risks, which are assigned to specific Elements within the program. The Human Research Roadmap is the web-based tool for communicating the IRP content.

The Human Research Roadmap is located at:

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Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Johnson Space Center LSDA Office
Project Manager: Jessica Keune
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
2015-16 HERO NNJ15ZSA001N