Inspiration4 Crew Will Conduct Health Research to Further Human Exploration of Space

Inspiration4 crew trains for upcoming mission. (Credit: Inspiration4)

Historic mission to advance science and medicine for human health during spaceflight 

LOS ANGELES, August 30, 2021 – The crew of Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian human spaceflight mission to orbit, announced today that they will partake in a first-of-its-kind health research initiative to increase humanity’s knowledge on the impact of spaceflight on the human body. Once in orbit, the crew will perform carefully selected research experiments on human health and performance, which will have potential applications for human health on Earth and during future spaceflights.

Additionally, SpaceX, the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine and investigators at Weill Cornell Medicine will collect environmental and biomedical data and biological samples from Inspiration4’s four crew members before, during, and after this historic spaceflight. 

“The crew of Inspiration4 is eager to use our mission to help make a better future for those who will launch in the years and decades to come,” said Jared Isaacman, commander of the Inspiration4 mission. “In all of human history, fewer than 600 humans have reached space. We are proud that our flight will help influence all those who will travel after us and look forward to seeing how this mission will help shape the beginning of a new era for space exploration.”

SpaceX, TRISH, and investigators at Weill Cornell Medicine aim to continue broadening access to space medicine research by making all biomedical data collected for the Inspiration4 mission accessible through an open data repository funded and overseen by TRISH that can be easily accessed for research purposes. Empowered by NASA’s Human Research Program, TRISH is a virtual institute that finds and funds disruptive science and medical technology in order to reduce health and performance risks in space explorers. The Inspiration4 crew will conduct the following TRISH-sponsored research:

  • Collect research-grade ECG activity, movement, sleep, heart rate and rhythm, blood oxygen saturation, cabin noise and light intensity.
  • Perform a series of tests in the Cognition app designed to assess changes in behavioral and cognitive performance. This is the same app that is currently used by astronauts in NASA-funded research studies.
  • Scan organ systems via a Butterfly IQ+ Ultrasound device, which is designed with artificial intelligence guidance for non-medical experts. Data collected will determine if non-medical experts can self-acquire clinical grade images without guidance from ground support and will provide a timeline of biological changes before and during spaceflight.This device is also currently being tested by astronauts on the International Space Station.
  • Collect and test drops of blood during spaceflight for markers of immune function and inflammation using a state-of-the-art miniaturized device called the Vertical Flow Immunoassay (VFI). 
  • Use balance and perception tests pre-flight and immediately post-flight to measure sensorimotor adaptation during changes of gravity. These tests are currently performed by astronauts upon return from spaceflight.
  • Archive, fully analyze, and share resulting biomedical samples and data in collaboration with investigators at Weill Cornell Medicine and research data in an open format database to enable greater collaborative research.

In addition, SpaceX is collaborating with investigators at Weill Cornell Medicine to perform a longitudinal, multi-omic analysis of the crew, including genome, epigenome, transcriptome, proteome, microbiome, metabolome, exosome, telomere, single-cell V(D)J immunophenotyping and epitope maps, and spatial transcriptome analysis. These samples and data will be added to a planned Biobank that will hold cryogenically-frozen samples and data from the Inspiration4 mission. 

Investigators at Weill Cornell Medicine have worked closely with SpaceX’s medical team on the Inspiration4 sample collection and aim to replicate many of the same protocols and experiments that were pioneered in the NASA Twins Study and the Biomolecular Sequencer Missions. WorldQuant is providing funding support for the work at Weill Cornell Medicine. The planned Biobank will hold aliquots of the human, microbial, and environmental specimens that are collected before, during, and after missions and enable long-term research and health monitoring for astronauts. 

SpaceX is targeting September 15 for Falcon 9’s launch of the Inspiration4 mission from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The three-day mission will target approximately a 575 km orbit, flying farther from Earth than any human spaceflight since the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions. Inspiration4’s goal is to inspire humanity and raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Click here to join the St. Jude fundraising adventure.