The following is a list of active research (Updated June 30, 2017).
Gas pressurized space suits cause injuries and significantly increase metabolic expenditure. It is challenging to quantify how the person moves relative to the suit, which is the genesis of EVA-related injuries. Many techniques of assessing suit performance cannot evaluate suited human biomechanics because they measure performance from the outside of the suit, characterizing the human and space suit as a whole. We are developing wearable sensing systems for use inside the space suit that integrate pressure sensing, joint angle measurement, and physiologic monitoring. Our emphasis is on modular sensor systems that can be used in different regions of the body over a wide range of anthropometries.
Space vehicle design is critical to maximize crew efficiency, comfort, and equipment storage. Designers utilize mock-ups early in the design phase to experiment with ideas, but high-fidelity mock ups can be costly and time consuming to produce. Therefore, many design decisions have been set in place by the time a high-fidelity mock-up is created. Engineering drawings allow early assessment of vehicle design, but do not allow experimental evaluation of physical presence of people interacting with the system. Further, when testing mock-ups in 1G, our perspective is limited by our orientation and by interacting with the vehicle in 1G. This limitation is removed in microgravity, where astronauts interact with the vehicle or habitat in ways not possible on Earth. To enable efficient and rapid mock-up of vehicle concepts, we are investigating the use virtual reality earlier in the design process to achieve improved system design.
Distortion Product Otoacoustic Emission Mapping
This project assessed distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE) as a non-invasive measure of intracranial pressure changes. DPOAEs are created in the inner ear when outer hair cells are stimulated by sound. Changes in intracranial pressure have been shown to cause changes in DPOAEs. The long-term interaction between intracranial pressure and the eye may cause visual acuity changes in spaceflight. Unfortunately, there is no noninvasive, easy-to-perform, on-orbit measure of ICP to test this hypothesis. The technique used here, DPOAE level/phase mapping, collects DPOAE data at multiple sites throughout the cochlea and so provides a comprehensive picture of cochlear responses to ICP changes.
Intraocular Pressure in Artificial Gravity
The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of artificial gravity (AG) as applied via a human centrifuge on the pressure within the eye. This pressure is known as intraocular pressure (IOP). Astronauts are returning from long duration spaceflight with visual acuity and structural changes to the eye, but the cause has yet to be determined. AG offers a comprehensive countermeasure that may be preventative of these problems, even if the mechanism is not determined. We are investigating AG as a potential countermeasure in conjunction with Prof. Torin Clark’s research team.