Training for Space Today for Tomorrow: from Luna – 2015 to the Sirius Project

di Roberto Toscano e Polina G. Kuznetsova.

Wide horizons are opening up in the field of scientific research to create training protocols for the new generations of cosmonauts who will form the human scientific heritage of the next decades, particularly as regards long-term stays in and the exploration of the solar system and deep space.

Among the most eagerly awaited objectives of space science in the near future is the creation, once the ISS missions are over, of a permanent, either orbital or surface, lunar outpost – the first phase necessary to acquire the indispensable scientific knowledge to make landing on Mars possible for a human crew.

Therefore, within this and the next decades, if the socio-economic-political scenarios are favorable, we will witness an exponential development in this sector of scientific research. However, already today we can draw on an invaluable collection of data on this matter, resulting both from experiments conducted aboard the ISS (still in progress) and from numerous laboratory simulation experiments. Among the latter is first of all the historic Mars 500 Project which made it possible to create a protocol-based training paradigm to define the optimal crew and technologies to be sent to the red planet.

Various standard protocols for training cosmonauts resulted from important studies mainly conducted in the Soviet Union and involving clinical investigations carried out by the scientist Vladímir Ivánovich Lébedev [Влади́мир Ива́нович Ле́бедев] which provided Yuriy Alekseyevich Gagarin [Юрий Алексеевич Гагарин] and his colleagues with the proper knowledge for their missions. Recently, especially thanks to the Mars 500 Project, making use of a well-constructed experimental protocol consisting of three phases which involved different crews, it was possible to test in particular the degree of psychophysiological resilience of an all-male crew (with the exception of the first phase of the simulation in which also a single female subject participated) in a state of long-term confinement.

The results emerging from concluded and ongoing studies in this sector have led to outlining new cosmonaut training protocols, stressing the necessity for candidates to meet the required standards as regards specific technical skills and individual psychophysiological characteristics but also to possess a high degree of resilience necessary for enduring a long-term shared confinement – the latter a condition already present in the current activities on the ISS, and which will be indispensable for the success of the landing missions to the Moon and Mars.

As a subsequent phase to the Mars 500 Project, the Luna 2015 simulation project was carried out, from October 27th to November 4th, 2015, in the same structure used for the previous experiment, namely the Institute of Biomedical Problems RAS in Moscow.

Luna-2015 is one of the most important medium-term confinement training protocols in history of space sciences involving a women-only crew.

Experiment tasks of this project:to obtain data on the state of health of the crew with the help of scientific equipment completely analogous to that aboard the ISS; to test the experimental equipment which is being prepared for delivery to the ISS; to study the features of interaction in the female crew; to assess the microbiological status of an individual by using express chromatography-spectrometric detection during an 8-day isolation period in a sealed capsule; to obtain data on the immunological and biochemical status of the test volunteers before and after isolation in the sealed capsule, and also after rotation on the SRC; to investigate water-electrolyte homeostasis, the state of liquid media and the neurohumoral status during an 8-day isolation period in a sealed capsule, and also after rotation on the short radius centrifuge (SRC); to work out an interaction system between various specialists (doctors, biologists, engineers, managers or economists, etc.) and to form a working group of the Institute’s young employees, capable of independent development and implementation of experiments with human participation.

Among the main research areas and methods applied, the experimental protocol reports[6]: area Psychological and psychophysiological studies (Simulation of test subject activity with an assessment of quality and the state of cognitive functions): AMOA (adapted model of operator activity) – software and hardware to assess the mental performance and quality of test subject activity; Bourdon’s correction test – it assesses the ability to concentrate, stability of attention and mental performance. Data received: the number of scanned characters, correct answers, and mistakes made; Pilot-T – software and hardware designed to assess the quality and psychophysiological cost of astronaut activities. It includes a docking model of two spacecraft, built-in cognitive tests and a “Neurolab 2010″ set, which records heart rate, blood pulse wave, electrocutaneous resistance and skin temperature; “Sensor”, a computerized program that measures short-term memory, the latent period of a simple motor reaction or the latent period of a complex motor reaction, the response time for choosing between two visual images, the absolute error (in pixels) in recognizing visual images, the productivity of counting-logical activities and a central delay in introducing light signals; “Centering” – a computerized program for assessing fine movement coordination; area Psychoemotional assessment: SOPR monitoring – a battery of tests designed for the operational control of mental performance. The methodology includes: a “Well-Being, Activity, Mood” (SAN) questionnaire, a two Luscher tests and a “Reaction to a moving object” (RDO) test; PSPA – a computerized test for the study of value orientations, self-perception and interpersonal relationships in a group; POMS (Mood profile, environmental assessment, interaction) questionnaire, a standard method used by Russian and foreign experts. – It includes on-board experiments on Mir and ISS stations. The subjects are asked to choose the quantitative characteristics describing their mood at the moment of the procedure -; RIFF questionnaire, a psychodiagnostic procedure that assesses fatigue and stress resistance; DSS questionnaire (the differentiated scale of emotions) evaluates psychophysiological manifestations of emotions; ” Test subject diary ” – a technique to study the behavior, functional state of the nervous system in terms of the parameters of oral and written speech; “Homeostat” – a system that evaluates the effectiveness of group interaction; “Group discussion” – designed to assess the level of psychological stability and the success of adaptation in an isolated small group, as well as to study the effectiveness of interpersonal interactions and the dynamics of functional-role distribution in the team; Video recording – a permanent video recording (without sound) for two consecutive days of test subjects in the living compartments, from waking up to going to sleep. Against the background of the video recording, group discussions are held on stressful and conflict situations. The technique is used to assess the psychoemotional state of the subjects according to their behavior; area Sleep quality evaluation: Lida sleep quality questionnaire – designed for a subjective evaluation of falling asleep, awakening, sleep quality and condition after waking up; Karolinska sleepiness scale – a blank methodology for assessing the level of wakefulness-drowsiness; Actigraphy – method for the objective recording of motor activity and sleep duration; area Recording of psychophysiological and physiological indicators: “Cardiovector” – software and hardware used onboard the ISS, makes it possible to assess the degree of regulatory mechanism tension based on the analysis of heart rate variability. In addition the parameters of systemic hemodynamics, such as impact and minute blood volume, peripheral vascular resistance and propagation time of pulse wave are calculated. An additional sensor for recording a ballistic cardiogram evaluates the energy of cardiac contraction and the separate contribution of the right and left parts of the heart; “Cosmocardium” is a technique included in the long-term research program on the ISS. The technique studies and evaluates the electrophysiological characteristics of the myocardium; it also studies the possibilities of an early detection of probable pre-pathological abnormalities that cannot be detected by traditional electrocardiography; finally it examines the relationship between electrophysiological changes in the myocardium and vegetative regulation indices of the heart rhythm; “Anti-stress” – a hardware and software designed to obtain a “health passport” at home, view it on the computer display and print it, if necessary. The system provides for the automated formation and issuance of individual health and preventive recommendations; “Neurosemantic psychodiagnostics” – identification of unconscious components of psychophysiological reactions, information about intrapersonal conflicts and life spheres with high emotional tension. Assessment of hidden fears based on an analysis of reactions to subjectively significant semantic incentives briefly presented; EEG an electrophysiological technique that assesses the functional state of the central nervous system and reveals signs of fatigue and drowsiness. In addition, the possibility is being studied of complementing the on-board equipment with “dry” EEG electrodes; Stress diagnostics – assessment of stress level, resistance to stress, and the ability to relax (consists of tests “Mirror Coordinator” and “Relaxometer”); “Algometry”, a complex study of changes in the pain sensitivity threshold of an individual under isolation conditions in a sealed capsule, and also after rotation on the SRC.- Medical-technical tests of the on-board equipment (algometer) before delivery to the ISS; Telemedicine dentistry – medical and technical tests of the prospective on-board telemedicine diagnostic dental kit; Monitoring of vital functions, including visualization, processing and primary operational analysis of the following parameters: ECG (in three leads), BH, SpO2, NIBP, data storage in the memory, and report generation and transmission. In the experiment, a protocol is developed for the use of vital function monitoring tools intended for inclusion in the series of landing modules; area Sanitary, hygienic and microbiological research: investigation of the human microbiological status by express chromatography-mass spectrometric detection. Collection of biological material from the test subjects; area Investigation of immunity and metabolism: immune status of the female volunteers. Defined parameters: indicators of congenital immunity (determination of the content in peripheral blood of monocytes and granulocytes expressing recognizing receptors on their surface signal images); adaptive immunity indicators (estimation of the content of human EK-, T- and B-lymphocytes in the peripheral blood); Biochemical status of female volunteers. Defined parameters: enzymes (ACT, ALT, GGT, GLDG, CHE, LAP, APF, CF, Prosthetic isoenzyme, LDH, HBG, CK, CFC-MB, alpha-amylase, lipase, their pancreatic isozymes), protein metabolism (urinary acid, creatinine, urea, total protein, albumin, cystatin C, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein), purine metabolism (uric acid), pigment metabolism (bilirubin total and direct), carbohydrate metabolism (glucose, beta-hydroxybutyrate) (cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, free fatty acids, phospholipids), concentrations of macro- and microelements (calcium, magnesium, inorganic phosphorus, iron), electrolytes and acid-base equilibrium (sodium, potassium, chlorine s bicarbonates); Hormonal status monitoring – examination of basal levels of individual indices of the neuroendocrine system in biomaterial samples – e.g., venous blood. Defined parameters: cortisol, melatonin, prolactin, testosterone; Water-electrolyte homeostasis, the liquid media and neurohumoral status of women. Defined parameters: cortisol, melatonin, prolactin, testosterone; “Octopus” is a software and hardware used to estimate the distribution of body fluids to continuously and simultaneously record the parameters of the human body seven regions: head and neck, thorax, abdomen, left and right thighs, left and right lower legs; “Densitometry” – the study includes: the following clinical programs : analysis of the mineral density of the spine and two proximal sections of the femurs; a whole-body study with a comparative evaluation of visceral adipose tissue and a composite body-composition analysis[7]; area Electromyographic and kinematic investigation of locomotion for various degrees of weight relief: investigation of the influence of various degrees of weight discharge (Lunar, Martian, terrestrial) on the electromyographic and kinematic characteristics of locomotion. The study includes three series of 2-minute walking tests carried out with vertical hanging of the body (0 – weight unloading on the surface of the Earth, 85% – weight unloading on the surface of the Moon and 65% – weight unloading on the surface of Mars). The subject arbitrarily chooses the walking speed; walking is done on a passive treadmill. In the course of the experiment, the electrophysiological activity of the hip and shank muscles is recorded by electromyography. Video recording of the events is carried out; area Respiration function study: acoustic study of forced exhalation (FV) noise[8]; duration of FV tracheal noise (in seconds) and its spectral characteristics (amplitude and frequency of the main spectral peaks, spectral density) are calculated; study of gas composition and acid-base equilibrium of blood;breathing patterns and minute ventilation of lungs in a confined environment; gas composition and acid-base equilibrium of arterialized blood and estimates the duration of breath retention on inhalation and on exhalation.

But how have scientists come to the definition of this scientific research and what are the specific peculiarities? The following section of this paper aims to offer a brief reflection on some topics and results of research (section psychology) developed in this project.

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Leggi l’articolo: Roberto Toscano e Polina G. Kuznetsova, Training for Space Today for Tomorrow: from Luna – 2015 to the Sirius Project, in Scienze e Ricerche n. 57, aprile 2018, pp. 5-11