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Immune Function Changes During a Spaceflight-analog 12-day Undersea Mission (ROI_Immune)
Principal Investigators
Research Area:
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Dysregulation of the immune system has been shown to be associated with space flight, and there have been several excellent reviews published regarding this subject. Causal factors for immune dysfunction include physiological stress, isolation, disrupted circadian rhythms, nutrition, and radiation. Also, microgravity itself may have a direct effect on immune cell function. Some of the alterations that have been observed following space flight (immediate post-flight testing) include altered: cytokine production patterns; NK cell function; leukocyte distribution; monocyte function; granulocyte function; T cell intracellular signaling; neuroendocrine responses; and leukocyte proliferation following activation. Due to the complexities associated with in-flight experiments, there have been comparatively few in-flight studies of immune function. Those that have been performed have found reactivation of latent herpes viruses during short duration flight and altered cell mediated immunity during long-duration flight. As a whole, these data strongly suggest that immune dysregulation is associated with space flight, regardless of duration. However, the precise in-flight nature of the dysregulation, especially as equilibrates over longer duration flights (distinct from launch/landing stresses) is not known.

One goal of NASA and the space life science community is to determine the clinical risks associated with prolonged space flight on human physiology, so that countermeasures may be developed prior to the initiation of exploration-class space missions. This need has been heightened by the impending deep space exploration program, which should be implemented by NASA over the next decade. An appropriate ground analog for space flight-associated immune dysregulation would offer a platform for ground evaluation of potential countermeasures. Choice of an appropriate ground analog is dependent on the physiological system of interest. The best analog for immune dysfunction would mimic on-orbit effects on human immunity, such as mission stress, adverse environment, isolation, etc. This study evaluated the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) consisting of 14 day undersea deployment at the Aquarius station, as an analog for this phenomenon. Given the comparatively short duration, NEEMO is viewed as a Space Shuttle analog. NEEMO missions consist of actual (not simulated) deployment, real-time station lifestyle, and legitimate risk associated with saturation diving. For this study, assays included measures of adaptive immunity, viral reactivation and stress factors. This assay panel is similar to those currently employed to evaluate on-orbit changes, allowing direct ground-flight comparison.

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Crucian BE, Stowe RP, Mehta SK, Feuerecker M, Choukèr A, Quiriarte H, Pierson DL, and Sams CF. NASA 14 Day Undersea Missions: A Short-Duration Spaceflight Analog for Immune System Dysregulation. 18th IAA Humans in Space Symposium, Houston, Texas, April 11-15, 2011.

DNA, viral/analysis
Virus activation/physiology

Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. Data sets are not publicly available but can be requested.
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Cytokine production
Cytomegalovirus - CMV, antibodies
Epstein-Barr virus - EBV, antibodies
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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
NEEMO 12 05/07/2012 05/18/2012 12 days
NEEMO 13 08/06/2007 08/15/2007 9 days
NEEMO 14 05/10/2010 05/24/2010 14 days
ROI 01/01/2002 12/31/2012 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: Pamela A. Bieri
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)