What happens to the human body on a flight to Mars? How does being confined to bed after a serious illness impact the body? How does the lack of daylight affect mood? Are there any measures to counteract these adverse effects? These basic questions need to be answered for us on Earth, to understand the effects of ageing, bedriddenness, immobilisation, and isolation, to name but a few.
The DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine is a world leader in aviation and space medicine. With its one-of-a-kind, highly sophisticated medical research facility, :envihab, the Institute is taking a step forward in its ground-breaking research into the ways in which people adjust to extreme environments and other stressful situations.
A one-story, 3500-square-metre, state-of-the-art space, :envihab (from the words ‘Environment’ and ‘Habitat’) will be used to explore the effects of extreme environmental conditions on humans and to determine possible countermeasures.
Eight separate modules, built according to a ‘house within a house’ design, include a short-arm human centrifuge to, for instance, conduct cardiovascular, bone and muscle research, laboratories for studying the effects of oxygen reduction and pressure decrease on test subjects, MRI/PET analysis facilities, rooms for psychological stress simulations and rehabilitations, microbiological and molecular biological research tools, as well as places to house and monitor test subjects. At :envihab, the Institute will conduct supertargeted research in space and flight physiology, radiation biology, space psychology, operational medicine, biomedical research and analogous terrestrial situations.
A major emphasis of :envihab is to form a closely interrelated network of scientists with industry and the general public. In addition to its cutting-edge facilities, :envihab will serve as a communications centre focused on outreach and inspiring the next generation of scientists. With its wide range of trend-setting research opportunities, :envihab is ideally suited for exploring the future challenges of human spaceflight, as well as for discovering a host of new applications for improving life on Earth.