August 22, 1980

Space shuttle and spacelab debut expected for 1981

JAMA. 1980;244(8):747-754. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310080005002

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The space shuttle Columbia is scheduled to fly its first mission next year. The long-delayed event could open a new chapter in space medicine.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials claim that, unlike previous spacecraft, the shuttle may be reused more than 100 times. A major item of equipment that will go along on some of its missions is a laboratory for medical and other scientific research. This "spacelab" is being developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and is expected eventually to make about 50 round trips—amounting to about 40% of shuttle missions.

Among research projects that might "lend themselves to investigation during these early life sciences spacelab missions," suggest NASA officials, are those examining

  • disorientation and nausea that sometimes incapacitate humans during the first few days of exposure to weightlessness in space;

  • orthostatic intolerance exhibited by some astronauts during and after space flights;

  • loss of mass and