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K-state researchers explore physiological effects of space travel with NASA grant
Date:8/23/2010

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- The final frontier may be no further than Manhattan, Kan., as a team of Kansas State University researchers launches a project funded by a $1.2 million grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The team -- composed of Thomas Barstow, professor of kinesiology; Steven Warren, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; Russell Taylor, an engineer in the Electronics Design Laboratory; and Carl Ade, a doctoral student in anatomy and physiology, Salina -- will research what physical characteristics are necessary for an astronaut to perform lunar tasks. The team also will study ways to assess whether a person has enough physical capacity to perform the tasks.

"Space travel is inherently dangerous," Barstow said. "The absence of gravity, which we call microgravity or zero gravity, causes our bodies to deteriorate in a variety of ways."

A microgravity environment causes the weakening of muscles and the immune system, and it deteriorates the cardiovascular system's ability to regulate blood pressure. Barstow said this can affect an astronaut's ability to perform necessary tasks, such as climbing ladders, walking or opening doors. For the safety of the astronauts, NASA wants to make sure they are physically fit enough to perform those tasks during future missions to the moon and even Mars.

"What seems like simple tasks as part of their life on the moon or other destinations could be life threatening if the astronauts aren't strong enough to do those tasks," Barstow said.

The goal of the research, Barstow said, is to develop a simple test or a series of tests that astronauts can use in space to identify their physical conditioning and to determine if they have the capacity to perform lunar tasks.

Each year of the three-year project will focus on a different aspect of space travel. In the first year the researchers will recruit 100 people to undergo an obstacle cour
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Contact: Thomas Barstow
tbarsto@k-state.edu
785-532-0712
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

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