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



Jessica Scott, Ph.D.Jessica Scott, Ph.D. is 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).


Previously Featured Scientist of the Month




Jeffrey Ryder, Ph.D. was our Scientist of the Month for his poster, “A Novel Weighted Suit to Assess Ambulatory Performance Under Reduced Strength-to-Body Weight Conditions,” presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Conference, San Diego, CA, May 29, 2015.


Performance outcomes of ambulatory tasks are influenced by human performance capabilities as they relate to one’s own body weight (e.g., strength to body weight). Alterations in body-weight-specific performance are relevant to situations in which performance is impaired with minimal impact to body weight (e.g., muscle deconditioning in astronauts or aging), and also conditions where total weight to be carried is increased without a corresponding increase in performance (e.g., firefighters or soldiers who are required to carry heavy gear).




Sara Zwart, Ph.D. was our Scientist of the Month for her poster, “Urinary Sulfate can Predict Changes in Bone Resorption During Space Flight,” presented at the Experimental Biology Meeting, held in Boston, Massachusetts, March 28–April 1, 2015.


Mitigating bone loss is critical for space exploration, and diet can play a major role in this effort.  Previous studies showed that dietary composition could influence bone resorption during bed rest.  In this study we examined the role of dietary intake patterns in bone mineral loss in astronauts during space flight.



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


Monthly Aerospace Medicine Grand Rounds seminars
are held at USRA Houston and open to the public.


Please check back for information on upcoming seminars.