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This is the spot where you ask the questions. The Neurolab crew will do their best to answer. We ask that you look at the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page first; maybe we already answered your question.

Check the list of Frequently Asked Questions or Ask a New Question!

Recent Questions

1) For both the human and animal experiments, what is the "normal" against which the data gathered in Neurolab is compared; is it Earth/gravity-bound results or space/weightlessness results?

2) If Neurolab goes as far north as Baltimore, then I'll be able to see it, at night only I expect.  Will the website track/predict the path daily, or in short, what's the best way to follow you all up there?

3) In the astronaut training, do the crew use some kind of mental training, for example Qi Gong, to be able to work under stresses and presses situations?

4) Will it be possible for humans in 0 G to read a text (on a screen) without having to position themselves so that they read it right side up? Can an alphabet or an image be created for the purpose of communicating that would not require the body to be in just one position in order to recognize the message?

5) Will the peripheral venous pressure device be on this flight and what significance will the data be to aid in diabetes research? Or other contribution to earth or space medicine?

6) I know that Columbia carries the PPOV camera of the launch and landing. It seems like every view of the launch is from either looking forward from the aft or back towards the crew from the front windows. Is there any chance we can see a different view, like over the CDR's shoulder and out the port window ?

7) As for Neurolab, I am curious about whether you will be testing any low gravity environments, for instance at .5 Earth gravities. Is there any way to do so, or would it require spinning the spacecraft which, due to the relatively small size of the cabin, might make you all pretty dizzy?

8) Do astronauts really carry "suicide pills", as depicted in the film "Contact"?


Answer to 1:

This is a very complicated question, which has two parts.  Let's start with the three possibilities how one might interpret spaceflight data.  All are being used on Neurolab.

First, we can use earth/gravity controls.  All of the data from animal experiments are compared to results from animals living in similar housing conditions here on earth.  This would be a comparison "between subjects". We also conduct "within subjects" designs where pre-flight/inflight/post-flight data are compared on the same subjects. Some of the rats and the four primates (the payload crew) are studied this way.

Second, we can use space/"gravity" controls.  For example, some of the crickets in the Spacelab will be housed in a centrifuge that provides a centrifugal field up to a level approximating earth gravity. This is a very nice way to separate the effects of gravity from those of spaceflight, as both the "pure" microgravity animals and the centrifuged animals experience the same stress of flight.

Third, we can study the time course of adaptation.  The virtual environment experiment hypothesizes that the longer we stay in flight, the more we will use visual cues to determine "up" and "down," whereas on earth touch and the organs of the inner ear contribute importantly.  So, repeated measures in-flight tell us about the process and time course of adaptation, rather than just answering the question, "does adaptation occur?"

Next, this question asks which (spaceflight or earth) is "normal."  This is somewhat a subjective and philosophical interpretation that doesn't really enter into experimental hypothesis testing.  In science we identify differences; these are not necessarily "abnormal."  However, this raises the question of whether adaptation to microgravity is appropriate or a problem. This depends on your reference frame.  For example, approximately 60% of astronauts have difficulty standing for a few hours after flight.  The changes to the cardiovascular system that occurred in-flight represent an appropriate adaptation to microgravity.  Alternatively one could argue that the cardiovascular system is now "maladpated" to 1G.  Whether you accentuate the positive, or the negative, depends on your use of the results, but it doesn't change the results per se.


Answer to 2:

For the interested in amateur, tracking a space shuttle no longer requires a degree in physics!  We suggest you check two excellent web sites that provide you a regularly updated map of shuttle position (and other spacecraft). You'll find them to be quite accurate! Please check:

You'll also find links to these locations on our links page.


Answer to 3:

Astronauts are not routinely trained in any mental relaxation or focusing techniques.  However, rehearsal (both mental and real) are very much a part of every day training.  A continuing effort to make everything familiar and practiced is important to completing mission objectives.  I hope this answers your questions.


Answer to 4:

With extended time in microgravity, the concept of "up" and "down" becomes less and less important.  Here on earth we look up, fall down, etc. but in microgravity we can reorient ourselves to either position.

But, our entire world around us, including a spacecraft, provides us cues that relay up and down information.  Lights and ceilings are up, floors are down.  So if a person is oriented 180 degrees opposite to their environment, is the person upside down, or the environment?  In other words, do you adopt an "idiotropic" (internal) frame of reference, or an "exocentric" (world) frame of reference?  We'll document this process, and how it adapts on Neurolab, using a virtual environment generator  to produce conflicts between our internal representation of up and down and what we see.

Now, back to your question.  In space, you can read text presented upside down as well as here on earth.  It takes more time because you have to think through the upside down letters, sometimes even rotating them mentally.  As far as developing a new text that could be read either way, you'd have a new problem.  Should it read left to right, or right to left?  An easier solution is sometimes used to mark labels in the Spacelab, simply print the text both upside down and right side up.  That way it's easy to read in either orientation!


Answer to 5:

Since STS-90 is devoted exclusively to neuroscience research, the peripherally inserted, central venous pressure device will not be flown aboard Neurolab.  It's unlikely that the results from the studies performed on STS-40 (SLS1) and STS-58 (SLS2) will contribute directly to the study of diabetes.  On the other hand, serendipity is sometimes the most important factor in science, and perhaps there is a less obvious, though important, connection.


Answer to 6:

Columbia is the only orbiter with the ability to live downlink shots from the minicam.  However, we only live downlink during entry and not ascent. As a crew we reviewed several possible locations for the camera during launch, including from the back looking forward and out the overhead window.  There is no suitable mount for the camera to provide the view you requested.  Also, we felt that the out the window view mostly shows blue sky fading to black, and that we would get more interesting video if the crew and displays were in view.  That is why we have selected the aft looking forward position for our minicam video.


Answer to 7:

Two experiments aboard Neurolab will employ low gravity environments.  The cricket experiment has a small centrifuge that applies a 0.5 g field to developing crickets during the entire flight.  Crickets have a well characterized gravity-sensing organ and the investigators are interested in determining whether gravity, innervation of the organ, or other environmental influences affect the development and function of these sensors.  Other crickets will experience microgravity only for comparison. In another experiment, the crew will be spun in a centrifuge at a  rate that produces a 0.5 g field.  The purpose is to characterize the adaptation of reflexes controlling eye rotation and tilt that are controlled by the organs of balance in our inner ear.  Without gravity, these organs behave very differently, so the our periodic spinning will provide a "quick check" of the function of this system.  For a few seconds after the spinning starts and stops we are dizzy, but this effect disappears, leaving a feeling of being tilted on one's side.


Answer to 8:

No, they don't.  It's an old rumor that's existed for many, many years, and there is absolutely not one shred of truth to this.

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