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



Lori Ploutz-Snyder, Ph.D

Lori Ploutz-Snyder, Ph.D. is our Scientist of the Month for her poster, “Integrated Resistance and Aerobic Exercise Training With Small Compact Exercise Equipment – Bone,” presented at the Human Research Program Investigators’ Workshop in Galveston, Texas, February 2016.


On ISS, astronauts have a suite of exercise equipment that includes a treadmill, cycle ergometer, and Advanced Resistive Exercise Device. In contrast, future exploration vehicles will have limited space and power for exercise equipment. As a result, these devices will function as both resistance and aerobic devices. Also, rowing exercise will replace ISS treadmill running and cycling.


Previously Featured Scientist of the Month




Christian Otto, M.D. was our Scientist of the Month for his poster “The Visual Impairment Intracranial Pressure Syndrome in Long Duration NASA Astronauts: An Integrated Approach,” presented at the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research Annual Scientific Meeting in Alexandria Virginia, on Wednesday November 11, 2015.


The Visual Impairment Intracranial Pressure (VIIP) syndrome is currently NASA’s number one human space flight risk.  The syndrome, which is related to microgravity exposure, manifests with changes in visual acuity (hyperopic shifts, scotomas), changes in eye structure (optic disc edema, choroidal folds, cotton wool spots, globe flattening, and distended optic nerve sheaths).  In some cases, elevated cerebrospinal fluid pressure has been documented postflight reflecting increased intracranial pressure (ICP).




Jessica Scott, Ph.D. was our Scientist of the Month for her poster “Time Course of Remodeling: Impact of Exercise Training and Bed Rest on Left Ventricular Morphology and Mechanics” presented at the American Society of Echocardiography Conference
June 12–16, 2015 in Boston, MA.


Early and consistent evaluation of cardiac morphology and function throughout an atrophic stimulus is critically important for the design and optimization of interventions. Exercise training is one intervention that has been shown to confer favorable improvements in left ventricular (LV) mass and function during unloading. However, the format and intensity of exercise required to induce optimal cardiac improvements has not been investigated.  Echocardiography can monitor cardiac morphology and function via sequential measurements of LV mass and ejection fraction (EF).



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

Tuesday, February 9, 2016
8:00 a.m. CST

3600 Bay Area Blvd., Houston, TX
Water in the Helmet - High Visibility
NASA Space Mishap Investigation
Laurence A. Ulissey
DoD Aerospace Medicine Liaison Officer
NASA/JSC Space and Clinical Operations