La Jolla researchers fly in zero gravity to study space tourism


Researchers at the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) in La Jolla are studying the effects of space flight on people other than trained astronauts.

Average citizens are poised to travel into space in significant numbers in the coming years. More than 500 of them have signed up for tickets aboard Virgin Galactic suborbital flights, and one recent report projects that the space tourism market will reach $1 billion by 2021.

But unlike super-fit astronauts, space tourists suffer from a full range of health problems. How will they fare? Will pacemakers and other medical devices work in zero gravity? Will medications cause unusual reactions?

STSI researchers, in conjunction with NASA, are working to answer some of those questions in advance of this major shift.

As part of their work, STSI physician-scientists Ravi Komatireddy and Paddy Barrett recently tested a San Diego-made wireless vital-signs device in a special NASA aircraft that simulated zero gravity by flying a series of high-altitude roller-coaster routes.

--Staff Reports