Since 1969, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), a private, nonprofit corporation, has worked closely with NASA. USRA's Division of Space Biomedicine was founded in 1983 to address the biomedical issues faced by humans in space. Harrison Schmitt, lunar module pilot of Apollo 17, was named as the first Director of the Division. In late 1990, the Division was renamed the Division of Space Life Sciences (DSLS) reflecting a broader charter: "to stimulate, encourage, and assist research in the NASA life sciences." This charter continues today and is encapsulated within three broad programs: the Science Program, the Extramural Support Program and the Education Program.


Scientist of the Month


Ajit MulavaraSusana Zanello, Ph.D. is our Scientist of the Month for her poster titled, “Brain Gene Expression Signatures From Cerebrospinal Fluid Exosome RNA Profiling,” presented at the Human Research Program Investigators’ Workshop Meeting, February 2016, Galveston, Texas.


Visual symptoms reported in astronauts returning from long duration missions in low Earth orbit are thought to be related to fluid shifts within the body due to microgravity exposure, leading to increased intracranial pressure (ICP) and visual impairment and intracranial pressure (VIIP) syndromes.  The purpose of this study is to investigate changes in brain gene expression via exosome analysis in patients suffering from ICP elevation of varied severity and to evaluate which of these biomarkers can also be detected in plasma.


Previously Featured Scientist of the Month




Ronita Cromwell, Ph.D. was our Scientist of the Month for her poster "Comparison of Structural and Functional Ocular Outcomes Between 14- and 70-day Bed Rest” which was presented at the 2016 Human Research Program Investigator’s Workshop Meeting in Galveston.


This study was performed to compare structural and functional ocular outcomes between 14- and 70-day HDTBR in healthy human subjects.  Our hypothesis was that the amount of ocular changes induced by HDTBR is affected by the time spent in the HDTBR position.  Methods: Two integrated, multidisciplinary studies conducted at NASA Flight Analogs Research Unit (FARU): 14- and 70-day  6º HDTBR, and NASA standard HDTBR screening procedures (healthy adults).




Ajitkumar Mulavara, Ph.D. was our Scientist of the Month for his poster, “Developing Personalized Sensorimotor Adaptability Countermeasures for Spaceflight.”  Ajit presented the poster at the 39th Annual Midwinter Meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, held in San Diego, CA, on February 20–24, 2016.


Information from this study will help in the design of sensorimotor adaptability training countermeasures that may be customized for each crewmember’s individual characteristics.



ScienceCasts: Space Vision

Dr. Christian Otto


Dr. Christian Otto featured in NASA’s Space Vision Science Cast

Watch the video

NASA Space Radiation


NASA Space Radiation Program Element


NASA Space Radiation Summer School


The Health Risks of Extraterrestrial Environments (THREE)




NEEMO featured in current IMAX 3D Space Film
“Journey to Space"

A Message from the Director

Welcome to the Division of Space Life Sciences (DSLS) at USRA Houston. As part of a non-profit entity, DSLS has the mission to support NASA and other Federal entities by conducting and managing research that addresses the risks to humans before, during, and after space exploration. DSLS provides high profile scientists, physicians, collaborators, and science managers to the NASA Human Health and Performance Directorate Human Research Program. Additionally, DSLS conducts and hosts major science meetings, seminars, and workshops. The full-time scientist team is made up of 16 scientists from many disciplines within life sciences. DSLS provides an excellent working environment for collegial intellectual exchange.


Dr. Neal R. Pellis, Director


Quarterly Display


Video Highlights

Optic nerve compression

Research Projects

Digital Astronaut

The Digital Astronaut Project
Applying Computational Modelling to Preserve the Health of Astronauts






Human Health and Performance in Space

Human Health and Performance in Space

The Human Health and Performance in Space Portal is an informal collection of articles, sites and pages discussing the effects of space flight, travel and habitation on astronauts and other space flight participants.

Featured Book

Human Adaptation to Spaceflight: The Role of Nutrition was co-authored by DSLS scientist Sara R. Zwart, Ph.D.  (excerpt) “The importance of nutrition in exploration has been documented repeatedly throughout history, on voyages across oceans, on expeditions across polar ice, and on treks across unexplored continents.”  In this book, key areas of nutrition concerns during spaceflight, including loss of body mass and depletion of body nutrient stores, are reviewed in general and in detail with respect to the role of nutrition and specific nutrients.  Existing knowledge is highlighted as well as gaps where additional research is needed.


Dr. Zwart is a Senior Scientist at USRA and the Deputy Manager for Nutritional Biochemistry at the Nutritional Biochemistry Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. 

UTMB Aerospace Medicine Grand Rounds


Please check back for information on upcoming seminars.