NSBRI Soliciting For Research Proposals to Support Crew Health and Performance During Space Missions

The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) is soliciting for ground-based, analog definition and flight definition research proposals to develop safe and effective countermeasures and technologies that will reduce the significant biomedical risks associated with human space travel. These discoveries will not only enable safe and productive human spaceflight, but will also have the potential to improve life on Earth. The Human Exploration Research Opportunities (HERO) announcement entitled “Research and Technology Development to Support Crew Health and Performance in Space Exploration Missions” was released jointly with NASA’s Human Research Program on July 30, 2013.

This NSBRI research announcement, (NRA) may be viewed at under the Funding Opportunities menu, within the Current Announcements section. The NRA is also available via the NASA Research Opportunities homepage at by navigating through the menu listings “Solicitations” to “Open Solicitations.” On the Open Solicitations page, researchers should select “NNJ13ZSA002N” from the list of solicitations and then choose “Appendix B”.

NSBRI is soliciting for research proposals to augment the project portfolios of its Cardiovascular Alterations, Human Factors and Performance, Musculoskeletal Alterations, Neurobehavioral and Psychosocial Factors, Sensorimotor Adaptations, and Smart Medicine & Technology scientific research teams. Research topics include visual impairment observed in U.S. astronauts. The specific research topics are:

Cardiovascular Alterations

  • Leveraging existing scientific resources and bio-repositories, coordinate and expand current NSBRI and NASA research efforts and programs by building a consortium of scientists, clinicians, and –omics experts to correlate the effects of space flight on cardiovascular physiology, with molecular assays. Identify and validate biomarkers that can be employed before, during, and after space flight to detect and longitudinally monitor cardiovascular pathologies, such as sub-clinical atherosclerosis.

Human Factors and Performance

  • Develop novel adaptive and context-sensitive refresher training and/or just-in-time training methods and tools for autonomous crews performing tasks such as robotic or maintenance activities. Customized and adaptive training should address and capture: cognitive performance (accuracy, response time), task performance parameters (workload, difficulty, modality), operational context (control method, time sensitivity, error tolerance, task criticality), and training history (scope and recency).
  • Test the effects of lighting protocols using the Solid State Lighting Assemblies (SSLAs) that will be installed on the ISS during 2015-2016. Test the SSLAs in a high fidelity ground analog environment, then implement an ISS flight study to evaluate individual crewmember outcomes related to circadian physiology, sleep, behavioral health and performance using sensitive and validated measures that are feasible in the space flight environment.

Musculoskeletal Alterations

  • In a bed rest study simulate the six month ISS schedule with respect to the timing of nutrient intake, relative to periods of exercise and sleep. Determine if “negative energy balance” is occurring, and evaluate the effects on muscle, bone, and exercise capacity. Determine the optimal timing and type of nutrient intake, relative to periods of exercise and sleep.
  • Employing an ISS study, determine the physiological effects of prolonged weightlessness on the spine musculature and validate flight-ready exercises that will safeguard functional integrity. Research proposals should in particular address the cervical and upper thoracic regions for head stabilization when astronauts are reintroduced to increased g-loads and a gravity environment, as well as the spinal stabilizing muscles that will help maintain balance.

Neurobehavioral and Psychosocial Factors

  • Modify and customize for astronaut use a clinically validated suite of products that will determine the need for, and autonomously administer, behavioral health countermeasures. In particular these modules should facilitate conflict resolution and promote psychosocial well-being.
  • Employing an ISS study, characterize individual pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic responses in crewmembers to promethazine, sleep hypnotics, (e.g. Ambien or Sonata), stimulants like caffeine and modafinal, (Provigil), as well as other commonly used medications by crewmembers in space flight, considering sex, weight, ethnicity, and age related factors. Investigators should be familiar with any existing NASA-HRP or NSBRI studies that involve these medications, and should strive to establish collaborations with the investigators leading these ongoing studies, as appropriate. 

Sensorimotor Adaptations

  • Employing a bed rest study, identify and characterize sensorimotor mal-adaptations that may impact performance during a series of g-transitions following long periods in microgravity. Integrate physiological observations and –omics data to develop personalized countermeasures to any observed sensorimotor mal-adaptations.
  • Utilize data sharing within a consortium of scientists and clinicians to analyze data from space flight and/or appropriate analog populations to identify and characterize sensory, motor, and neurocognitive changes that may accompany the VIIP condition. Correlate any functional, performance, and fine motor control decrements with the degree of visual impairment.

Smart Medical Systems and Technology

  • Employ medical simulations and develop metrics to quantify differences in clinical outcomes between astronaut-analogous physician and non-physician cohorts in the performance of medical procedures. Medical simulations and associated training should target conditions identified in NASA’s Exploration Medical Condition List. Based on these quantified differences, develop at least three products for the medical training of crewmembers.

Proposals solicited in response to this NSBRI research announcement will follow a two-step review process. Only Step-1 proposers determined to have proposed work that is relevant to the specific topics solicited by this research announcement will be invited to submit full Step-2 proposals. Step-1 proposals are due on September 4, 2013, and invited Step-2 proposals are due on December 3, 2013. Participation is open to all categories of U.S. based organizations, including educational institutions, industry, nonprofit organizations, NASA centers, and other Government agencies. Both Step-1 and Step-2 proposals must be submitted electronically via NSPIRES.


The National Space Biomedical Research Institute, NSBRI, is a 501(c)3 organization funded by NASA. Its mission is to lead a national program to mitigate the health risks related to human spaceflight and to apply the discoveries to improve life on Earth. Annually, the Institute’s science, technology and education projects take place at approximately 60 institutions and companies across the United States.


Graham Scott