NASA Now: Biology: Astronaut Health on the International Space Station
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NASA Now: Biology: Astronaut Health on the International Space Station


[ Sound Effects ] Hi, I’m John and
this is NASA Now. If you think of the ISS
as a submarine in space, there is no water that’s
drinkable, there’s no food, and there is no oxygen
for astronauts to breathe. So how do the astronauts survive
in such an extreme environment? We’ll find out later
in today’s program, but first here’s what’s
happening at NASA Now. [ Sound Effects ] NEEMO expedition team members
have descended beneath the ocean’s surface for a three-week
mission aboard Aquarius, an aquatic laboratory located
3.5 miles, or 5.6 kilometers, from the Florida Keys. During their underwater
mission, an international team of astronauts, engineers, and astronaut candidates will
be experimenting with tools, techniques and communication
technologies to simulate conditions
on near-Earth asteroids [ Sound Effects ] Now, let’s take a
look at the past. [ Sound Effects ] November 20, 1998,
the first module of the International Space
Station, named Zarya, was launched aboard a
Russian Proton rocket. It wasn’t until October
31, 2000, that the first crew boarded
a Soyuz spacecraft destined for the partially assembled
International Space Station. [ Sound Effects ] Here on Earth we have plenty
of air, water and atmosphere to sustain plant
and animal life. It’s all part of a
carefully balanced eco-system. In space, none of these life
essential elements exist. So how can humans
survive in space? Biomedical Engineer
Stephanie Flint is here to explain how the astronauts
are able to live and work on board the International
Space Station. Hi Stephanie, how would you
describe the space environment? Space is an extremely
hazardous environment. Without the protection
of Earth’s atmosphere, once you’re outside of that,
you’re not able to breathe because there is no oxygen,
there are extreme temperatures, you’re closer to the sun and so you are more
susceptible to radiation. How are astronauts able to
live and work in space then? So in order for humans
to live in space, NASA has to create an
artificial environment, known as the International
Space Station. We make sure that
the air is clean, make sure that the water is
safe to drink and make sure that it’s not too loud
and we also are able to measure all the radiation. Why do you measure radiation? The reason that we monitor, or
measure, radiation on the ISS is because we want to keep the
levels of exposure to a minimum so that when astronauts
return to Earth, maybe years down the road,
they are not at risk for cancer or other problems that come
about because of radiation. Is there a name for all
this measurement equipment? Flight hardware is the
status that we give to all of the devices and monitors
and equipment that go up to the Space Station to
make sure that it’s tested in and proven to work. We don’t want to send
something all the way up to the Space Station,
miles away from Earth, and then realize
that’s it’s broken. What is an example
of flight hardware? An example of flight hardware
is a carbon dioxide monitor. When we breathe, we
breathe out carbon dioxide, so it is dangerous for
astronauts when they are in one place for too long. If that CO2 builds up
around their breathing area, it can cause headaches. They can get tired. So, we know that carbon
dioxide negatively affects them. You mentioned monitoring
the noise levels, how do you measure those? Our sound level meter measures
the noise levels in the ISS. The ISS has a lot of
equipment and a lot of fans. So if you think of a noisy
computer at home, its got a fan, maybe loud fans and that can be
distracting while the astronauts are trying to do their work. And when it’s too loud,
we tell the astronauts to wear protective equipment
or earplugs to block the noise. And how do you know if the
drinking water is safe? We use a biocide
monitor to make sure that microbial growth
doesn’t affect the crew when they drink water. So the way we do that is we take
a sample of water and run it through a little cartridge
that changes color. We load the cartridge onto
this instrument and it’s able to read out the color change. And the color change tells
us how much iodine is present in the water, and iodine is
needed to kill off those bugs. Why is biomedical engineering
a good field to get into? Biomedical engineering is a
great field for anyone to go into if you’re good at math and
science, if you have an interest in healthcare, this is a great
way to merge the two disciplines to produce something
that’s going to help someone’s
quality of life. [ Sound Effects ] Did you know, the
United States portion of the International Space
Station was designated as a National Laboratory by the
2005 NASA Authorization Act? This means other federal
entities and companies from the private sector can use
the International Space Station to conduct experiments in
a microgravity environment. Now you know. [ Sound Effects ] Living in space is no easy task. It takes lots of
planning and preparation. Here’s a project where you can
design your own space mission. You and your students can
create your own space expedition to the moon, in the
lesson, Lunar Nautics: Designing a Mission to
Live and Work on the Moon. It can be found in the
NASA Explorer Schools’ Virtual Campus. Well that’s it for NASA
Now, join us next time when we go beneath
the moon’s surface to discover what
lies at the core. See you then on NASA Now. [ Sound Effects ] NASA Now comes to you
from the Virtual Campus at NASA Explorer Schools.

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