An aerospace engineer-turned-bone health researcher is leading a study that will be performed in space. Indiana University School of Medicine Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery Melissa Kacena is part of a team of researchers studying bone healing through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA. She says it is a challenge to provide training for the astronauts who will run hundreds of different experiments in a zero-gravity environment. During an interview in the Business of Health Kacena says researchers will get more time for this study than previous flights.
Kacena says "this will be the longest that bone healing has actually been done in space, it’s only been five days or 14 days, so if we go out to 30 days, it’ll be much longer than what we’ve already done." She adds "we’ve optimized the model, so that we can learn as much as we can in a short period of time."
Time is important, because the experiments are complicated and take longer because of the nature of space travel and the "brain fog" that affects astronauts. "We need to plan very differently. Something that would take us maybe 10 minutes on Earth, it will take them about an hour and a half." She says the complicated training process for the astronauts will help familiarize them with "the whole gamut" of engineering and biology knowledge needed to execute the work.
You can follow Kacena’s story through her blog with the IU School of Medicine.