Impact of :envihab on Future Research for Space and Earth

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Overall Strategy – Landmark Research – Guiding Recommendations – Key Messages


Bernhard Koch and Rupert Gerzer

with the participants of the :envihab Symposium, especially with recommendations from


Jeffrey Davis (NASA)

Chiaki Mukai (JAXA)

Patrick Sundblad (ESA)

Cologne, Germany, July 2011



Figure 1: Entrance area of the newly built research facility :envihab at the DLR Institute of Aerospace in Cologne, Germany

1. Preliminary Remark

The DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine of the German Aerospace Center (DLR Cologne, Germany) will have a newly constructed research facility operational by the end of 2012.

Due to its complexity and modularity, this research facility will offer unique research and technology development opportunities to contribute to solving urgent questions for Space and Earth.

2. Technical Background

:envihab is a new modularly designed analogue research facility for large-scale complex medical, physiological, psychological, biological research and technology developmental campaigns.

It is currently under construction as part of the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine and in close proximity to the European Astronaut Centre (EAC), ESA, on the DLR campus in Cologne. While on the one hand the architecture supports studying the effects of different environmental conditions on humans and possible countermeasures, it provides on the other hand public information, exhibition and conference areas with a special focus on public outreach, demonstrating the direct, positive impact of space research and technology development for the quality of life on earth, and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.

At the same time, :envihab is a highly sophisticated research platform for international, multilateral and interdisciplinary cooperation of scientists, physicians and engineers of a wide field of research disciplines.

The facility measures approx. 3,500 m2 in size as floor space. Up to 12 test subjects can be housed simultaneously under strictly defined and controlled conditions for a broad variety of studies. :envihab is designed according to the house-in-house-principle. There are eight separate modules in the one-storied building containing a human centrifuge and facilities for flight simulation, physio-lab studies with e.g. oxygen reduction and pressure decrease in a hypobaric area, accommodation and monitoring of test subjects, MRT and PET analysis, psycho-lab stress simulation and rehabilitation, microbiological and molecular biological research and the complex control and supervision itself. The environment of the main medical research modules can be defined, e.g. with regard to temperature, humidity, natural and artificial light and sound. The modules can be individually combined according to the requirements of a specific study protocol and, if needed, they can be hermetically sealed from the surrounding :envihab environment and the natural environment. A huge flat roof accommodates the technical equipment needed for the operation of the building.

:envihab offers a wide range of new and trend-setting research opportunities for future challenges of human spaceflight as well as for terrestrial applications. Construction will be finished by the end of 2012.

Figure 2: According to the house-in-house principle :envihab accommodates eight independent modules that can be linked to each other according to the study protocol.

3. Scope

For long-term habitation in space and for living on Moon and Mars, many questions still need to be resolved. Such research questions include caring for health and performance of humans in extreme environments and under extreme conditions, prevention of and rehabilitation from negative effects of e.g. weightlessness, or supporting individuals whenever this support is necessary. In many instances, these problems are comparable to or identical with problems of aging people on Earth, of patients during long-term stays in bed, of patients in rehabilitation or, on the other side, of highly skilled teams that are under extreme stress or work under unusual conditions. In addition, challenges that the space flight environment presents to new technologies (low weight and power demands, minimal training, in situ analysis) are similar to providing health care technologies in remote challenging environments on earth.

From a strategic point of view, one major emphasis of :envihab is to form – on a global scale – a closely interrelated network of leading scientists, physicians, engineers and entrepreneurs in their respective fields of research, technology development and innovation and also to use the facility to fascinate the public and integrate an educational approach for the young/ next generation.

Thus, the aim of the 1st :envihab Symposium was to identify and discuss key research, technology development and “industry potential” questions both for applications on Earth and in space. The main tasks of :envihab will be how to make needs and chances of the future visible by questions that need to be resolved both in space and on Earth: space research is not different from research on Earth, but one of many challenges and chances of aiming for the unknown.

4. Scientific Approach

From a scientific point of view, the research will be hypothesis driven: thus answering (basic) scientific questions by posing clearly defined hypotheses and verifying/ falsifying them. Technology development projects will focus on novel technical solutions to space based problems with application to terrestrial health care.

Many questions will also be operationally driven. However, also here the emphasis will be to answer underlying scientific questions in a hypothesis-driven approach before applying the answers to operational solutions. Thus, the aim is to come to landmark decisions and innovative solutions.

5. Overall Aim of :envihab

The main objective and main task of :envihab is to find solutions to complex tasks in our modern mobile society and to make needs and chances visible to the scientific world, to industry and politicians alike, and the general public at large by asking basic questions that need to be resolved both in space and on Earth.

6. Understanding

:envihab in itself is not just a modular building to perform research in. At the same time, :envihab is a long-term strategy, and a global network of current and new partners from all walks of life. Whether from the science and education community, other research institutions, universities, ministries, agencies, industry or culture, they are all included.

Thus, :envihab is an interdisciplinary research platform which – due to its uniqueness – allows unique research opportunities and combines research, industry and education/ outreach under one roof.

7. Unique Opportunities

:envihab enables unique opportunities for joint complex and integrative medical, psychological, physiological, biological and technological studies – and this in international collaboration with both traditional and new partners.

:envihab allows joining up with new partners from e.g. the health sector, health insurances, healthcare providers etc.

:envihab allows closely working together with new entities and bodies such as the NASA Human Health and Performance Center (NHHPC).

:envihab offers new opportunities with regard to education and public outreach not just by fascinating but by offering an authentic research environment which partly allows hands-on activities – and this in global cooperation.

Thus, :envihab allows to expand partnerships systematically under one roof.

8. Impact of :envihab on Future Research for Space and Earth – Superordinate Key Activities, Guiding Recommendations and Landmark Research

8.1. Mission Statement

Providing for health and performance of humans in the mobile society in space and on Earth

8.2. Superordinate Key Activities – Fostering mutual understanding and cooperation

To make the whole endeavor successful for each single partner involved, key superordinate logistic and coordination activities, such as mentioned below, should be followed stringently:

8.2.1. Foster Interdisciplinary and International/ Global Research Campaigns

· Establish/ use :envihab as study and research platform

· Facilitate complex and large-scale science- and technology-driven international study and research campaigns

· Facilitate ISS partner studies including ISS utilization and ground-based facilities

· Accommodate new sustainable strategies with regard to teaming up and new partners

· Develop novel technology solutions to high priority space flight challenges

8.2.2. Scientific Approach – Operational Aspects, Logistics and Coordination

· Exchange of best practices and lessons learned

· Defining common rules and standards

o Modeling of processes on a scientifically sound and excepted basis which among others evokes sharp interest of (pharmaceutical) industry and medical and technological profession

· International Countermeasure Working Group (ICM) as a forum for information exchange with the aim

o To foster standardized approaches for countermeasure research

· Standardization of bed rest studies and flight experiments

o To minimize side effects and

o To reduce inter- and intraindividual deviations in studies with a small number of test subjects

· Convening technology development workshops to share novel problem solving approaches and results

· Data management (data presentation and data provision) and sharing policy

o Principle investigators share data with each other

o Central data base

· Identify points of contacts for key staff functions for existing resources (or dedicated staff if possible)

o Legal, especially intellectual property (IP)

o Technology transfer

o Procurement

· Staff to manage relationships with partners and technical aspects of partnerships

· Consider shared laboratories and staff

8.2.3. Foster Sustainability of the :envihab Program by Diverse International Cooperation

· Strengthening sustainability of the :envihab program by explicitly integrating diverse potential users

· Include non-space related organizations/ groups/ people in the :envihab program

· Identify, find and cultivate potential users for a sustainable :envihab program

· Establish :envihab web site to inform interested (new) partners, organizations etc.

· List and indicate locations of participating partners, organizations etc.

· Include non-space related organizations/ groups/ people in the :envihab program

· Publish fact sheet of :envihab research facility such as lab capabilities etc.

· Establish themes that resonate with prospective participating organizations (e.g., health, education)

8.2.4. Foster Education and Outreach for All Ages

· Develop a comprehensive educational program to include diverse groups of people as far as age, educational background, profession and their curiosity/ motivation are concerned

· Develop a continuing educational program especially for senior citizens to help society detecting, creating additional value and utilizing a precious asset of human resources for future educational programs as a whole

· Education of junior scientists such as in the SpaceLife program is a decisive/ key factor to innovative space life science research to be carried out in :envihab

· Many education and outreach programs (E&O programs) in the space biomedical research field have been conducted successfully to attract the public to space in Japan and can serve as best practice examples

· MissionX: Train like an Astronaut demonstrates how a multination E&O project can be successful

· Consider involvement of non-traditional partners for participatory engagement opportunities

· Create a portal for already existing space life science related information that is easily accessible offering valid information for different target groups

8.2.5. Go Public and Highlight Projects with Dual Earth/ Space Benefits

· Landmark contributions to:

o Advances in medicine in general

o Medical therapies with regard to wide spread diseases

o Biomedical diagnostic and therapeutic device development

o Environmental research (water, air, food, hygiene etc.)

o Fascinating and empowering educational and outreach programs

o Recruiting next generation of scientists and technicians

o The integration of the (high) potential of senior citizens’ competencies in an aging society integrating and thus

o Landmark contributions to sublimating and enlarging the scientific and technical and technological knowledge base for the benefit of society

8.3. Landmark Research – Key Topics

To face major challenges for Space and Earth :envihab’s future research should – for example – focus in particular on the following superordinate key research fields:

8.3.1. Providing for Health and Performance of Humans in the Mobile Society in Space and on Earth

On the basis for the quest for standardization in human physiology studies:

· Research focus on prevention and rehabilitation on the effects of

o Weightlessness,

o Physical inactivity

o Isolation

o Immobilization

· Research with regard to environmental factors and human performance

o Vigilance

o Sleep

o Fatigue

o Work load

o Stress

o Monotony

· Conducting large scale realistic simulations under varying environmental conditions

o Developing molecular markers to monitor the health state

o Integration of different labs (e.g. within the Micro-G centre)

o Reconcile physio-psychological aspects of performance

o Reconcile physio-psychological aspects of mobility

o Developing and testing countermeasures against adverse environmental conditions

· Identifying needs for novel technology solutions and convening government, industry and academic partners to search for novel solutions

8.3.2. Life Support Systems for Space and Earth

· Life support systems and closed environments

o Self-reliant life support and habitation with a high fidelity

o Mass reduction optimized water recycling system

o Monitoring and analyzing of bioburden and biodiversity

o Optimization and miniaturization of detection systems for in flight application and Earth application

o Technology development of robust and miniaturized gadgets for use in closed/ semi-closed environments (such as hospitals etc.)

8.3.3. Telecare and Personalized Healthcare

· Empowering and enabling the recipients of (health and healthcare) teleservices

o as a provider or

o recipient

of professional and leisure environment to keep up/ increase mobility and thus quality of life

· Providing ubiquitous information for prevention and curative settings

· Providing chronically ill people with a personalized (health)care approach to manage his or her disease as independently as possible

· Smart devices can provide added value running interactive applications or augmented perception tools

· Development of medical applications must be user and not technology driven

8.3.4. Preparation for Private Human Spaceflight

· Emerging market and further access for science in space

· Medical screening of tourists and simulation of flight profiles is necessary to give passengers an impression to judge their own risk

· Medical support is necessary for safe flight and return from orbital and suborbital flight

· SAHC is a central device to develop countermeasures in microgravity

9. Next Steps

· Conduct workshops on a regular basis with industry, science and parties involved and build in open collaboration/ innovation techniques

· Disseminating information and opportunities of :envihab for both the scientific world and industry

· Conducting large scale realistic simulations under varying environmental conditions (e.g. pressure, oxygenation, light, sleep loss, circadian misalignment) to investigate effects on performance and sleep

· Testing countermeasures against adverse environmental conditions to improve performance and sleep in order to increase safety

· Further development of :envihab web page

· Providing results of technology workshops to: envihab members and to the general public

10. Take Home Message

Demanding explorations and exciting new adventures to broaden human scope have always been and will be in the future an intrinsic part of human kind.

We think with the philosophy and underlying strategy of :envihab in mind, and thus by systematically combining and bringing together the different partners with their specific expertise, :envihab and its global community can contribute to resolving urgent questions for living on Earth and space and for striving for new frontiers.

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