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



Dr. Ronita CromwellOur Scientist of the Month for January is Ronita Cromwell, Ph.D. for her poster, “Ocular Outcomes Comparison Between 14- and 70-day Head-down Tilt Bed Rest,” to be presented at the 2015 Human Research Program Investigators’ Workshop, January 13–15 in Galveston, Texas.  DSLS team members named on this poster are: Drs. Susana Zanello, Patrice Yarbough, and Rob Ploutz-Snyder.


Ophthalmological changes have been recently reported in some astronauts involved in long-duration space missions.  Elevated intracranial pressure resulting from μG-induced cephalad fluid shifts may be responsible for most of these findings.  Further Head Down Tilt Bed Rest (HDTBR) studies with different duration and/or angle of tilt and/or environmental conditions (e.g., high CO2 exposure during HDTBR) may help determine the validity of the HDTBR analog to investigate microgravity-induced ophthalmological changes distance and near visual acuity was 20/20 or better pre- and post-HDTBR in all subjects.

Previously Featured Scientists of the Month




Our DSLS Scientist of the Month was Christian Otto, M.D., MMSc for his poster “NASA’s Number One Human Spaceflight Risk:  The Visual Impairment Intracranial Pressure Risk.  Pathophysiological Hypotheses (Vascular, CNS & Ocular)."


Christian Otto, M.D., MMSc., and the Visual Impairment and Intracranial Pressure (VIIP) Team received a NASA Honor Group Achievement Award for its accomplishments, “The Visual Impairment/Intracranial Pressure (VIIP) team is honored for their aggressive pursuit of physiologic data related to this syndrome and their significant effort to share this evidence with the science community. Data compilation, analysis, and multi-discipline, cross-cutting collaboration were the key elements of their successful transition from definition into targeted research to mitigate the risk.  Exceptional dedication and initiative from the VIIP team laid the foundation for significant scientific progress toward understanding the effects of long-term spaceflight on the ocular system.”




Our DSLS Scientist of the Month was Lealem Mulugeta, MSc. for his poster “The Digital Astronaut Project Bone Remodeling Model.”


We don’t know the contribution of each risk factor on bone loss and recovery of bone strength and which factors are the best targets for countermeasure application; and we need to identify options for mitigation of early onset osteoporosis before, during, and after spaceflight. Skeletal loading along with endocrine regulation and local biochemical mediators are what drives the cellular mechanism of bone remodeling to maintain bone. Exercise induced loading, with appropriate input to a model can approximately predict the effect of specific exercise prescription and thus help to evaluate its benefits as a countermeasure option.




USRA Quarterly Display




Community Outreach Highlight


Space Station Live: Short, High-Intensity Exercise to Stay in Space Shape

Dr. Ploutz-Snyder

Public Affairs Office Amiko Kauderer interviews Lori L. Ploutz-Snyder, lead investigator of the long-running Sprint VO2 exercise experiment. The study investigates high-intensity, low duration exercise techniques on the space station using a resistance device, an exercise bike and a treadmill. Watch the video.

NASA Space Radiation


Humans In Space Art Competition

Humans in Space Art

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 Space Life Sciences Directorate and the Human Research Program (HRP). Additionally, DSLS conducts and hosts major science meetings, seminars, and workshops. The full-time scientist team is made up of 19 scientists from many disciplines within life sciences. DSLS provides an excellent working environment for collegial intellectual exchange.


Dr. Neal R. Pellis, Director

Research Projects


Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger

Video Highlights

HRP Spaceflight Analogs
Optic nerve compression


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.

UTMB Aerospace Medicine Grand Rounds

Monthly Aerospace Medicine Grand Rounds seminars

are held at USRA Houston on the 4th Tuesday of each month (January– October).


Please check back for information on upcoming seminars.


Space Pharmacology

Space PharmacologySpace Pharmacology, written by DSLS Senior Scientist Virginia E. Wotring, Ph.D., is a review of the current knowledge and use of pharmaceuticals during spaceflight.  It provides a comprehensive study of the literature, addressing each area of pharmacokinetics and all major physiological systems in turn.  Each section begins with a topic overview and is followed by a review of published data from spaceflight and from ground experiments meant to model spaceflight situations.  In the final chapter, Dr. Wotring delves into the unknown and examines new medical challenges we are likely to face on long duration exploration missions.


Virginia E. WotringDr. Virginia E. Wotring is Pharmacology Discipline Lead at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Human Heath and Countermeasures Division. She received her doctorate in Pharmacological and Physiological Science from Saint Louis University after earning a B.S. in Chemistry at Florida State University.