- NASA Watch
- February 2, 2023
NASA Life Science and Artemis: It Is Time To Get Serious
Keith’s note: Speaking as someone who did graduate research in gravitational biology and who worked at NASA Headquarters and elsewhere as a space life scientist, I am quite interested in the adaptations of life to prolonged exposure to conditions on the Moon. I am certain that there are changes in living systems in fractional gravity wherein changes in genomic expression can be measured. We’ve seen it in humans and other organisms exposed to microgravity in spaceflight and centrifugation (simulated hypergravity) on Earth. Alas, to date, the vast bulk of research where changes in gene expression are studied have to do with microgravity – not lunar or martian gravity.
Its nice to know that someone at NASA Gene Lab is paying attention to the news regarding Artemis and Moon2024. But the suggestion in this tweet that they might have anything relevant to 0.16G biology at this time is probably tenuous, at best. Indeed, a simple key word search of their website for “lunar” and “moon” shows this to be the case. But at least they are stepping up to the plate – which is good. A look at the NASA Space Station and CASIS websites shows no mention of Artemis or Moon2024.
One would hope that NASA would have an integrated strategy for such research that spans Earth- and space-based facilities. Right now its more like competing fiefdoms within NASA’s sphere of funding influence rather than an overall, integrated program with clear goals directly related to operational as well as fundamental science. If preparatory work is needed to enable safe human operations and other life forms in lunar gravity to support the Artemis program (which is going to start up on the lunar surface in 2024) NASA should have already have enabling research under way. Instead it has a scattered collection of things. Someone needs to bring order to this disarray and create an integrated program of space biology and medicine at NASA so as to flight certify humans and other forms of life for prolonged exposure to other worlds. And this integrated program needs to be able to provide useful information in time to actually inform NASA mission planners – not after the fact.