Expedition 40 Completes Week of Medical Research Aboard the International Space Station

First Posted: Jun 16, 2014 11:40 AM EDT

NASA has shifted their focus of the space program and is preparing for long-duration and deep space missions. The six-person ISS Expedition 40 crew wrapped up the week after completing plentiful medical research for these types of missions.

ISS Commander Steve Swanson and Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman and Alexander Gerst conducted a number of experiments that sought to understand the effects of long-duration spaceflight on astronauts' health and develop countermeasures to prevent any potential health risks. This research is likely in preparation for NASA's Asteroid Initiative and the eventual Mars missions.

Three experiments - the Sprint Investigation, the Cardio Ox study, and the Circadian Rhythms investigation - were all part of the week's research. Swanson was the subject for the Sprint Investigation, which measures the effectiveness of high-intensity, low-volume exercise training for minimizing the loss of muscle mass and bone density that occurs while spending a prolonged amount of time in space. The ISS astronauts currently work out for 2 ½ hours per day to maintain health and provide information for the investigation.

Wiseman conducted his research for the Cardio Ox study, which investigates the risk of cardiovascular disease related to long-duration spaceflight. Past research has shown the heart becomes spherical after a long time spent in space, but it returns to its normal shape over time when back on Earth. Wiseman underwent an ultrasound test and got his blood pressure measured by Gerst. The goals of this experiment are to determine whether or not biological markers of oxidative and inflammatory stress are elevated during and after spaceflight.

And lastly (among other small experiments) the Circadian Rhythms investigation monitored Gerst's body core temperature over a 36-hour period through the use of sensors and an armband. The results of this research will help scientists understand the adaptations of the human autonomic nervous system. The body clock of astronauts can be disrupted since the ISS orbits the Earth 16 times per day and witnesses a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes.

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