8.19.2006

Kistler and SpaceX in $500 Million NASA deal: Space Brain
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Two of the Contract Winners have just been announced by NASA for private launch vehicles:

Two emerging space companies have won a NASA competition to provide low cost commercial transport to the International Space Station. SpaceX, founded by PayPal's Elon Musk, is developing its two-stage reusable Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft, but it is making changes after the loss of Falcon 1 during its maiden launch. Rocketplane Kistler's K-1 is a two-stage reusable launch vehicle that has been in development for over a decade. Both companies represent a departure from business as usual at NASA. Boeing and Lockheed Martin are the largest companies in the aerospace industry and win most NASA contracts.
Here, Dr. Arthur Jensen of our advisory board won the 2003 Kistler Award given by the Foundation for the Future for his contributions to science. Another UC-Berkeley professor, Dr. Vincent Sarich, whom I recall from a large lecture hall at Berkeley, won the 2004 award.

A strong secondary interest we have is space travel and the commercialization of space, of which cognitive training (such as with the Cognitive Labs' tests) is a component and will only become more important over time to deal with subtle changes in the brain and body. Here is what we learned at NASA regarding modifications that accrue from space travel. The cognitive effects are not completely understood; people such as Dr. Yesavage at Stanford and another expert at UC-Davis have studied consciousness in spaceflight and pilots; in addition to the former astronauts (at the Stanford-VA they have a flight simulator for research on interactions between substances and cognitive performance, e.g., medications for Alzheimer's effects or even nicotine, and have been a leader in studies of retired Air Force and Naval Aviators)

The effects on the body are known to researchers but not really noticed by the public. Here are a few effects:

1. The body loses mass; the longer you stay in space, the thinner you get. Weight loss of 50 lbs is not uncommon
2. Water leaves the tissues of the body
2. The limbs become longer and thinner
3. Acclimating upon return to earth can in some cases be fatal, particular if the individual is over 50 years old
4. Physical anomalies will become worse upon return than before departure

The above related to trips of a year or less to the ISS.

Witnessed effects on longer stays or even a second generation in space (space baby) are not yet known, but would presumably be more exaggerated....for both mind and body



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