The DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine conducts interdisciplinary research into the health and performance of humans in space, in aviation and on the ground. Globally unique research facilities such as :envihab allow the highest level of integrated scientific research. Biological, medical and psychological research examines the effect of environmental conditions on the basic mechanisms of human health, living conditions and human performance. The research results and technological innovations are directly implemented into psychological and biomedical applications.
Within the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Institute of Aerospace Medicine with its Department of Aviation and Space Psychology in Hamburg forms a central interface between technological innovations and humans (see organization chart). The key focus of the Institute is the preservation of the health and performance of people directly or indirectly involved in aviation and space, such as pilots, flight attendants, passengers, astronauts, drivers and residents. Complex questions regarding enclosed life-support systems and the interaction between humans and the environment are addressed by making crucial contributions to solving environmental problems on Earth, and providing concrete solutions for the aerospace of the future. Aspects of human physiology, such as sleep, the circadian rhythm, muscle and bone metabolism, circulation and micro- and molecular biology can be investigated under highly controlled environmental conditions.
The department Cardiovascular Aerospace Medicine explores acute and chronic impact of real and simulated weightlessness, extreme atmospheric conditions, nutrition and exercise on the human cardiovascular system. The major aim is to elucidate mechanisms of structural and functional adaptation of the heart and large blood vessels as well as the impact of changes in autonomic cardiovascular control.
The department’s research focuses on human performance, sleep and wellbeing as subject to specific challenges and risks posed by the mobile 24-hour society. We study the effects of environmental influences as well as individual factors, and derive countermeasures and mitigation strategies that can be shared with stakeholders in the fields of aeronautics, space and transportation. The research integrates both basic human science aspects as well as applied/translational aspects in the operational environment, in particular in aeronautics.
The Flight Medicine Clinic department of the Institute of Aerospace Medicine works in an interdisciplinary specialist area dealing with the specific requirements of human beings in aviation, space flight, and travel. At the Aeromedical Center (AMC), medical specialists carry out screening examinations to test the suitability and fitness of transport, commercial, and private pilots, air traffic control personnel, cabin crew members, light aircraft pilots, as well as skin and commercial divers.
The Muscle and Bone Metabolism department examines the adaptation of the human body to changing environmental conditions, such as microgravity, atmospheric composition, nutrition and physical inactivity. Genetic predisposition and the ageing process are also taken into account, as are the overall effects on health. A good understanding of biomechanics and metabolism helps us to develop efficient measures to counteract muscle atrophy, bone atrophy and metabolic disorders in space. The research also focuses on possible clinical uses, such as in rehabilitation medicine.
When carrying out the selection of operative personnel, the Aviation and Space Psychology department (based in Hamburg) takes into account the high demands placed on aviation and space flight personnel. Scientifically based methods of aptitude diagnostics are first developed, then applied and evaluated in cooperation with airlines, air traffic control institutions, and/or space agencies.
The Radiation Biology department focuses on relevant aviation and space travel questions with regard to the effects of radiation on humans and the biosphere. The division’s central task is to create the experimental and theoretical conditions necessary to provide effective protection from radiation in aviation and space flight. The insights gained are also increasingly used to solve terrestrial problems. Moreover, the department investigates astrobiological issues with regard to the origin, distribution, and development of life.
Gravity has been the only environmental stimulus, which always has remained constant and thus has influenced life on Earth during evolution. Other factors such as light, the atmosphere, environmental temperature and the magnetic field have changed during the millenia. Consequently, it is of great interest to understand how gravity is being perceived by organisms and which impacts altered gravitational conditions effect on biosystems, from the single cell to a human, particularly in the course of exploring space.
As part of central management of the Institute of Areospace Medicine the Study-team
supports internal and external scientists as well as research groups conducting human investigations. The main focus lies on complex, highly standardized in-patient studies.
The work conducted at the Institute makes an important contribution to meeting the demands of today's and tomorrow's society on human beings by keeping people healthy and productive in the mobile society and in interaction with machines and the environment. The Institute’s research facilities enable advanced human physiological and psychological examinations, modern imaging processes as well as highly standardised simulations and modification of environmental conditions.