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Spinal Elongation and its Effects on Seated Height in a Microgravity Environment (Spinal)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Human factors
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Spinal elongation due to microgravity is an important consideration for the seated height dimension. Previous research has demonstrated that crewmembers tend to increase in stature by up to three percent, which has driven current requirements to allow for such growth in dimensions such as stature and seated height. However, no spinal elongation induced seated height growth data has been collected from crewmembers so far. The Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), Orion, designers requested relevant anthropometric data in order to ensure that the vehicle accommodates a full range of crewmembers as a result of being exposed to microgravity environment.. Seated height measurements are of particular interest due to the nature of seat layout within the vehicle. The criticality of this measurement is such that changes in seated height on the order of magnitude of inches have significant impacts on the level of crew accommodation available.

This data will also be valuable in the design of lunar vehicles, habitat modules, and suit hardware sizing components. Without adequate information, the impact of spinal elongation on seat positioning and fit may pose risks to crew accommodation and comfort during seated operations along with being able to ingress and egress the seats. The effectiveness of the crew may be reduced due to impaired access to displays and controls, and the selected crewmembers may not fit into seats following exposure to microgravity. Because of the criticality of the seated height dimension with respect to Orion seat layout design, the selection of crews may therefore be impacted in order to ensure fit. Through systematic measurements and analysis, it is possible to provide relevant seated height data. The proposed procedure involves measurement of crew subjects seated in the Shuttle cockpit by use of traditional anthropometry tools as well as photographic scaling. Results of the evaluation will feed into design requirements for MPCV and future vehicles as well as provide valuable insight for future human space flight programs.

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Young K, Mesloh M, Rajulu S. "Preliminary Results of the Effect of Spinal Elongation in Microgravity on Seated Height." Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) 81st Annual Meeting,, Phoenix, AZ, May 9-13, 2010. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine 2010 Mar;81(3):336., Mar-2010

Young, K., Mesloh, M., Rajulu, S. (2010). Development of Methodology to Gather Seated Anthropometry Data in a Microgravity Environment (Simulated Microgravity Flight Report). In: Conference Proceedings at the Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE 2010), Miami, Florida.

Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. Data sets are not publicly available but can be requested.
Data Sets+ Request data

Height, seated
Height, standing

Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Expedition 20 05/27/2009 10/11/2009 137 days
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 26 11/26/2010 03/16/2011 111 days
Expedition 28 05/23/2011 09/15/2011 115 days
STS-128 08/28/2009 09/11/2009 14 days
STS-129 11/16/2009 11/27/2009 11 days
STS-130 02/08/2010 02/21/2010 14 days
STS-132 05/14/2010 05/26/2010 12 days
STS-133 02/24/2011 03/09/2011 13 days
STS-134 05/16/2011 06/01/2011 16 days

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)
Alternate Experiment Name
Spinal Elongation