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Sonographic Astronaut Vertebral Examination (Spinal_Ultrasound)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Muscle physiology
Skeletal physiology
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

This study provided longitudinal, real-time data regarding adaptation of the vertebral unit during long-duration space flight to enhance mission completion, countermeasure development, and astronaut health. The ability to assess the crewmember’s musculoskeletal (MSK) system is critical to guide countermeasures, provide functional data for high risk or impact activities, and assess acute injuries which may occur during exploration class space flight or return to Earth. This study had the following specific aims:
  1. Determine the accuracy of MSK ultrasound in characterizing the normal and microgravity associated changes in the vertebral unit.
  2. Investigate the human factors, level of experience, and training necessary to perform focused cervical and lumbar vertebral MSK ultrasound in microgravity with inexperienced ultrasound operators in parallel with expert operators.
  3. Determine the anatomic changes in the vertebral unit during long-duration space flight with astronaut performed vertebral ultrasound.

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Kufta JM, Dulchavsky SA. Medical care in outer space: A useful paradigm for underserved regions on the planet. Surgery. 2013. November ;154(5):943-5. []

Marshburn TH, Hadfield CA, Sargsyan AE, Garcia K, Ebert D, Dulchavsky SA. New heights in ultrasound: First report of spinal ultrasound from the International Space Station. Journal of Emergency Medicine. 2014. January ;46(1):61-70 []

Musculoskeletal physiology
Cross-sectional area (CSA)

Photo Gallery
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Data Information
Data Availability
Archiving in Progress. Some restricted access data exist for this experiment.
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Bone area
Bone mineral content (BMC)
Bone mineral density (BMD)
Cartilage metabolism biomarkers
Cartilage thickness
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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Expedition 33 09/16/2012 11/18/2012 63 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
Expedition 38 11/10/2013 03/10/2014 120 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:

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

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)
Alternate Experiment Name
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
2009 Crew Health NNJ09ZSA002N
Hardware Items