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Clinical Characterization of Space Motion Sickness (SMS) (DSO 455)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Clinical medicine
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Space motion sickness (SMS) is experienced by about 50% of crewmembers during the first several days of exposure to the microgravity space flight environment. Predominant symptoms of the syndrome are headache, depressed appetite, general malaise, lethargy, gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting. As in other forms of motion sickness, the syndrome may reduce self motivation and result in decreased ability to perform demanding tasks. The syndrome is self limiting. Complete recovery from major symptomatology, in other words adaptation to the space flight environment, occurs within two to four days. After complete adaptation occurs, crewmembers appear to be immune to the development of further symptomatology.

Available data regarding overall incidence to date of SMS in the U.S. and Soviet manned space programs indicates that the frequency of occurrence of this syndrome has been approximately equal in both countries. An important feature of these data is that with the advent of larger spacecraft in the U.S. program (i.e., Apollo, Skylab and Shuttle) that permit greater mobility of crewmembers, the incidence of SMS has increased. In an effort to resolve the SMS or at least minimize the operational impact of the syndrome, NASA has significantly expanded its research efforts in this area. As part of this expanded effort, a systematic program of operationally oriented motion sickness data collection was implemented on most individuals assigned to Shuttle flights from April 1981 to April 1985. The primary objective of this program was to collect preflight, inflight and postflight data on the crewmembers in an effort to begin validating ground based tests which may be predictive of susceptibility to the syndrome. The development of reliable predictors is operationally important because they would permit the a priori identification of individual crewmembers for whom special preventative measures should be taken. A secondary objective of the program was to acquire data which could be used to validate countermeasures for the syndrome.

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Thornton W. Initial neurological investigations on Shuttle. Uchu Koku Kankyo Igaku (English title: Japanese Journal of Aerospace and Environmental Medicine.) 1996;33(2):93-101.

Thornton WE, Linder BJ, Moore TP, Pool SL. Gastrointestional motility in space motion sickness. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1987;58(9,Suppl):A16-21..[]

Thornton WE, Moore TP, Pool SL, Vanderploeg J. Clinical characterization and etiology of space motion sickness. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1987 Sep;58(9 Pt 2):A1-8.[]

Eye movements
Head movements
Space motion sickness (SMS)
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Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. Some data sets are online.
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Blood pressure
Bowel sounds
Central nervous system (CNS) pressure
Cervical vertigo
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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
STS-41D 08/30/1984 09/05/1984 6 days
STS-41G 10/05/1984 10/13/1984 8 days
STS-51B 04/29/1985 05/06/1985 7 days
STS-51C 01/24/1985 01/27/1985 3 days
STS-51D 04/12/1985 04/19/1985 7 days
STS-51G 06/17/1985 06/24/1985 7 days
STS-51I 08/27/1985 09/03/1985 7 days
STS-51J 10/03/1985 10/07/1985 4 days
STS-61B 11/26/1985 12/03/1985 7 days
STS-61C 01/12/1986 01/18/1986 6 days
STS-8 08/30/1983 09/05/1983 6 days

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
DSO 454
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