November 16, 2021 Boulder, CO
Over the past year, a team of physicians, scientists, and engineers have been developing a framework for a new human research program for those entering space via commercial spaceflight providers. While NASA has a robust human research program (HRP), there is no such research program in place for commercial spaceflight participants. The purpose of this year-long initiative was to outline the foundational principles of developing such a research program for commercial passengers. Accordingly, these meetings also included leadership from many of the commercial flight providers, such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and Axiom Space.
The effort was chaired by Dr. Michael Marge of the MITRE Corporation and Tommy Sanford, Executive Director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.
Chairing the Suborbital Spaceflight Committee was Dr. Mark Shelhamer of Johns Hopkins University and former Chief Scientist at NASA Johnson Space Center. Chairing the Orbital and Beyond Low Earth Orbit Spaceflight and Habitation Committee was Dr. Michael A. Schmidt, CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of Sovaris Aerospace.
On November 16, 2021, the committees presented their first public review of the purpose and central tenets of a human research program for commercial spaceflight participants. A full spectrum of potential stakeholders was present, ranging from the National Space Council to the US Space Force. Dr. Schmidt’s presentation was focused on 1) the unique phenotype (characteristics) of commercial passengers and how they will differ from professional astronauts, 2) how the collection of complex molecular, physiologic, and behavioral data from each mission will grow our understanding of the response to spaceflight in these individuals, 3) how a human specimen biobank will provide a sample pool (blood, urine, etc.) from a vast number of missions from which to perform complex molecular analytics, 4) how data derived from these analytics can be used to develop predictive models and countermeasures that benefit future space travelers, and 5) how this complex data set can be used to apply precision (personalized) medicine to future space travelers.
The next phase of the effort will be focused on pursuit of sustainable funding that will assure that the effort will be at the leading edge of spaceflight science and medicine in support of a robust presence of humans in space.