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Oxidative Damage During a 12-day Saturation Dive (ROI_Nutrition)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Metabolism and nutrition
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Oxidative damage in our bodies is the result of oxidation, which is the reaction of products of oxygen with other molecules. Oxidative damage is known to occur during and after space flight. Astronauts, particularly those performing extravehicular activities (EVAs), are exposed to multiple oxidative insults, including increased oxygen exposure, radiation, and exercise. Risks from oxidative damage include increased muscle fatigue and risk of cataracts, cardiovascular disease, and many forms of cancer. Currently, no effective countermeasure exists to mitigate oxidative damage during space flight. As we contemplate lunar missions, with greatly increased EVA frequency and durations (two or three times per week, 8–10 hours each time), minimizing oxygen-related health risks is critical.

In an underwater-based analogue of space flight, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project, crewmembers live in an underwater laboratory for days to weeks. NEEMO missions are saturation dives, meaning that the diver’s tissue gases reach equilibrium with the pressure environment and therefore divers are allowed to live and work underwater for long periods. Aquarius, the unique laboratory in which the divers stay, provides a remote, confined environment similar to that found aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The habitat is located 19 meters below the ocean surface, 4.8 kilometers off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. The 2.5-atm (253 kPa) pressure and 21% oxygen inside the habitat provide increased oxygen availability, similar to that on ISS EVAs, during which spacewalkers breathe 100% oxygen at reduced pressure (0.3 atm). Because of the increased air pressure in the Aquarius habitat, crewmembers are exposed to higher oxygen pressures, which increase their risk for oxidative damage to DNA, proteins, and lipids in tissues and blood.

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Zwart SR, Jessup JM, Ji J, and Smith SM. Saturation diving alters folate status and biomarkers of DNA damage and repair. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(2):e31058.

Zwart SR, Kala G, and Smith SM. Body iron stores and oxidative damage in humans increased during and after a 10- to 12-day undersea dive. The Journal of Nutrition. 2009. January;139(1):90-95.

Body composition
Nutritional requirements
Nutritional status
Nutrition assessment

Photo Gallery
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Ferritin iron
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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:

+ Click here for information of how this experiment is contributing to the HRP's path for risk reduction.

Additional Information
Other Key People
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)
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