Sample Memo on Microgravity



Date:    November 6, 2015

To:        Mrs. Roland H. Gallop, Instructor, Scientific and Technical Communication, KSC Space       Life Science Laboratory, Kennedy Space Centre.


Subject:  Proposal for a One-year Project that will study the Genetic, Cellular, and Physiological

Processes in Microgravity-Induced Loss of Muscle Mass.



NASA astronauts are at their physical peak when they are selected for shuttle flights. However, Scientists have noticed that the longer the astronauts are in space, the more control they lose over their muscles, despite regimented exercise routines. The problem entails the absence of concrete solutions to deal with microgravity effects on the human body. The human endothelial cells (ECs), usually align themselves in the deeper surface of vessels, and perform significant roles in ensuring that vascular integrity is in position as well as tissue homeostasis. They perform this by regulating the rate of blood flow among other physiological processes in the human body.

ECs have high levels of sensitivity to mechanical stress, such as hypergravity and microgravity since they have to encounter morphological and functional dynamism while responding to the gravity alterations. Hypergravity results in dynamisms in the production and general expression of vasoactive among other inflammatory mediators and molecules undertaking adhesive roles. In doing so, it leads to changes in the processes of cytoskeleton remodeling and caveolae remodeling. All these modifications in line with genetic molecules end up controlling the survival of the cell, cell proliferation, apoptosis, angiogenesis, and migration among others.

All the processes resulting in a mechanical loading of the body cells and tissues through forces that are generated by gravity results in various effects on human cell and the human tissue physiology. They include stimulating and enhancing the standard functionality, and regeneration of bones and other tissues, such as muscles and blood. For astronauts who have been attending several regimented exercise routines, most of their body cells, such as osteoblasts, osteoclasts, and erythrocytes are eroded through differentiation, apoptosis, and lysis.

Mechanical loading of the human body tissues enhances the growth and development of tissues. Microgravity has always resulted in reduced tissue regeneration (Nickerson 13). This is possibly through the resulting impacts realized alongside the tissues of the stem cells progenitors. For testing the hypothesis that the processes of mechanical unloading and hypergravity alter the biological differentiation of bone marrows, as well the lineages of the hematopoietic stem cells, several studies were conducted. The studies were biological in nature on cellular and molecular elements of how the barrow across some astronauts, and their proximal femur, gives responses to hypergravity.

The study found out that the surfaces of the cortical endosteal bones at the femoral head realized significant bone resorption in hypergravity, leading to the enlargement of the marrow cavity. The intact cells that were isolated from the head heart realized an important level of bone resorption from in hypergravity, leading to the enlargement of the whole marrow cavity. Some of the astronauts have their erythrocytes displaying the elevation of the fucosylation and a close clustering to the sinuses resulting in a marrow-blood obstacle, providing room for the explanation of the spaceflight anemia.

Human bones have emerged as a dynamically remodeled tissue that demands mechanical stimulation of gravity mediation to maintain its mineral content and structure. The homeostasis process of bones occurs through balanced activities alongside the signaling of the osteoclasts, proliferation, and differentiation process of the entire stem cell progenitors. Most of the astronauts have reported cases of bone resorption, that is, osteoclasts mediated through the whole mechanisms also have the possibility of resulting in the bone loss while in space.

For testing this possibility, three-years-experienced astronauts were exposed to, (n=8), were exposed to hypergravity within a period of 15 weeks on a NASA space shuttle mission. A deeper analysis on their pelvis by the CT reveals that there was a reduction in the fraction of their bone value (BV/TV) to a level of 6.29%. Also, there was a decrease of up to 11.91% in line with their bone thickness. There was an increase of up to 1705 by the trabecular bone surfaces that are osteoclasts-covered as well as TRAP-positive, with a depiction of p=0.004, which gave indications to levels of osteoclastic bone degeneration. We conducted studies by high-resolution nanoCT, of an X-ray type, which provide a revelation of the signs and possibilities of lacunar osteolysis, such as elongation in the cross-sectional area (+17%, p=0.022) and perimeter (+14%. p=0.008). The study also revealed a canalicular diameter of +6% and p=0.037.

There is the permanent exertion of gravity on astronauts who are always in orientation in the constant stimulation, and if their orientation is dynamic in line to the gravity vector. The solution to this problem is the achievement of the exact hypergravity through parabolic lights, rockets, and space labs usage, on their availability on the International Space Station (ISS). The shot span of the hypergravity conditions realized through the usage of parabolic flights as well as rockets reduces the span for undertaking the studies for various complex and elongated biological mechanisms.

The first solution is the usage of clinostat, due to their consideration as depicting efficiently ground-based machinery for the stimulation of hypergravity. This has further been used in the study of the various effects of microgravity.  Clinostat is significant since it plays a role of randomizing motion as well as theoretically limiting the uniform influencing realized from gravity.  The other solution is the use of rotating wall vessel bioreactor, which was invented at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre, with the prime objective of stimulating the impacts of hypergravity on cells. Other solutions include the use of magnetic levitation, among other models used to generate hyperactivity.


The purpose of our research proposal is to develop a one-year project that will study the genetic, cellular, and physiological process in microgravity-induced loss of muscle mass. The project’s objective is assisting NASA scientists in developing pharmacological products that, prescribed with the exercise routines, will help counteract the effect microgravity has on the body. As the team manager of the project, with three space scientists and other two researchers, we aim at realizing the set objectives, goals, and missions of the project.

The research proposal has set out some of the mechanisms that will provide room for the scientists to undertake the development of an in-space countermeasure routine exercise program. The regular program has an aim of maintaining muscles at their peak of functionality whenever long missions in space are being undertaken. One major challenge on earth is the maintenance of strong muscles, and it is very hard to make the same in space where there is no gravity. There is a need for the additional second treadmill as well as the advanced resistive exercise device (ARED) accompanied with an extremely vigorous exercise regime that will provide better outcomes in mitigating muscle loss. The two, ARED and high strenuous exercise, will further be significant in the preservation of the perfect muscle health.

Some of the possible countermeasures to the problems arising from microgravity may include pharmacological and dietary interventions (Reimann and Will 17). Providing the astronauts with the best medication to strengthen their bone muscles before taking off to space will help in overcoming some of the possible gene and cellular abnormalities. The dietary intervention will be helpful in that by consuming the right meals, the rate of muscle and tendon growth along the bones will be heightened, countering the possible effects resulting from microgravity.

There is a need for innovative exercise hardware that will provide improved modalities on loading. The exercises will be done by use of locomotors training machines and other vital exercise tools, contained with spacecraft components that will avail artificial gravity during the training session. This particular approach will provide both the aerobic and resistive exercises through the incorporation of a cage-like platform onto the entire training design. The artificial gravity has an implication of availing the similar conditions outside the earth, on other planets that astronauts always encounter during their flights.

The non-weight bearing, which leads to loss of skeleton muscles atrophy and bone can as well be mitigated by taking care of microgravity surroundings, and deconditioning of spaceflight. This can be best attenuated through the adoption of weight-bearing practice routines on a treadmill. A comprehensive mitigation of microgravity-induced atrophy will necessitate the inhibition of myocyte apoptosis since it will provide room for new growth via supplementation of elements that are typically released during the process of mechanical stimulation (Stevenson 19).



For the purpose of accomplishing the project, we will conduct other NASA stations in different regions and get their views on the same. By doing so, we will collect the relevant historical data and information that will enable us to cope with the possibilities of failure in realizing our objectives. Other scientists and researchers have conducted the same project before. The most important part of the group will be visiting libraries among other sources of the previous proposals to get a full comprehension of their coverage. We will, therefore, undertake comparisons and contrasts to what we have set as our methodologies and plans in realizing the set objective of the $250,000 project including the research training in astrobiology.  This will enable the evaluation of astronauts and access to astronaut candidates’ medical record.

Between the periods of May 1, 2016, to May 1, 2017, the members of the project will visit different medical organizations where most of the astronauts seek medication. Under the organizations’ directions and approval for the research project, we will be able to access the various files and extract the relevant medical information. These will give us the relative paths in addressing the best pharmacological solutions regarding the same.

Project Management

  1. a) Work Distribution Plan

The project is made up with a total of a six-members; I being the team manager. There are three space scientists and two researchers. As the team manager, my roles will include coordinating communication and effectively planning for transdisciplinary approaches that will enhance an active collaboration and teamwork among the six members of the group. The two researchers will be visiting the targeted NASA organizations, libraries, and other specified medical groups to gather relevant information regarding the previously conducted researches on microgravity. The three space scientists will undertake the duties of dietary and pharmacological interventions to establish the right medication that need to be embraced to realize the set objectives of the project. They will come up with the right new exercises that will enable the astronauts to conduct active and significant routine practices within the created temporary microgravity. The accountability of each member will be embraced through adhering to the team’s mutually set policies and meeting the goals within the stipulated time frame.

  1. b) Project Schedule
Name Date Task
I May 1, 2016 to May 1, 2017 1.     Coordinating communication and effectively planning for transdisciplinary approaches that will enhance an effective collaboration and team work among the six members of the group.

2.     Making follow-ups on every group member and checking out if they all remained determined and on the right track.

Charles Harding May 10th, 2016 to November 31st 2016 1.     Visiting NASA organizations.

2.     Visiting medical organizations.

Elizabeth Vargis May 10th, 2016 to November 31st 2016 1.     Visiting medical organizations.

2.     Visiting libraries

Danny Riley May 10th, 2016 to November 31st 2016 1.     Dietary interventions
David Costill May 10th, 2016 to November 31st 2016 1.     Pharmacological interventions
Scott Trappe May 10th, 2016 to November 31st 2016 1.     Identifying the right innovative exercises.



In the previous researchers, many efforts have been put in place in the mitigation of the spaceflight muscle atrophy as well as functional deficits of the skeleton muscles. All the researchers have failed to realize success though significant progress has been made on the same. Our project proposal is therefore aimed at mitigating the various risks undergone by astronauts through losing masses of their skeletal muscles, endurance, and functionality. The project will aim at prescribing the most appropriate exercise and validating them during spaceflights, and developing mission-specific hardware that will be made valid in the most appropriate microgravity environments.


Works Cited

Nickerson, Cheryl A. ‘Welcome Statement—Npj Microgravity’. npj Microgravity 1 (2015): 15006. Web.

Reimann, Jörg, and Stefan Will. ‘Optical Diagnostics On Sooting Laminar Diffusion Flames In Microgravity’. Microgravity – Science and Technology 16.1-4 (2005): 333-337. Web.

Stevenson, Richard. ‘Explaining Leds’ Diminishing Returns’. IEEE Spectr. 48.11 (2011): 20-20. Web.