The goal of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation's Center for Space Medicine is to contribute to the solution of medical problems experienced by humans during space flight. The Center, located in the Clinic's Lerner Research Institute and co-directed by Angelo Licata, M.D. and James Thomas, M.D., provides a focal point for space-related medical research and gives the Center's researchers access to the network of more than 2000 physicians and scientists employed by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. The Center is supported by a cooperative agreement from NASA's Glenn Research Center (GRC) in Cleveland, Ohio and works closely with engineers from GRC. Other support comes from Friends of the Center for Space Medicine, the John Glenn Biomedical Engineering Consortium (JGBEC), and grants from NASA Headquarters and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI). The headquarters of the NSBRI Bone Loss Team are located in the Center, and Dr. Licata is the Team Leader for this group. Dr. Thomas is a member of the NSBRI's Smart Medical Systems team.
Many biological systems are adversely affected by space flight. It has been shown that exposure to microgravity can alter the musculoskeletal, neurosensory, and cardiovascular systems resulting in deconditioning that may compromise crew health and performance. Countermeasures are necessary to offset or minimize the deleterious effects of long duration space flight on the human physiology. Maintaining health and fitness during space missions is critical for preserving performance during mission specific tasks (ie, extravehicular activity) and to optimize terrestrial recovery and performance. Some problems - such as space motion sickness - usually resolve after a few days in space; others - such as bone loss, cardiovascular alterations and the risk of injury due to radiation exposure - continue for the duration of the mission and may have implications in the post-flight period. A third group of risks - which includes the risk of loss of consciousness - occurs during re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere. If we are to sustain a prolonged human presence in space, solutions to these and other medical problems resulting from space flight must be found.
In January 2004, human exploration of the moon and Mars was identified as NASA's primary goal. NASA subsequently underwent a radical reorganization to achieve these objectives and, by forming the Center for Space Medicine, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation has moved to apply its considerable resources to help assure the success of these exploration goals and to establish an active partnership with GRC. Members of the Center for Space Medicine continue to consult with NASA Headquarters and other NASA representatives on strategic plan and policy issues as NASA's mission evolves.
In addition to its medical and scientific mission, the Center for Space Medicine also sponsors scientific meetings and public lectures on topics related to humans in space. A national symposium, Bone Loss During Spaceflight: Etiology, Countermeasures, and Implications for Bone Health on Earth, was held on June 23-24, 2005. The Friends of the Center for Space Medicine receive invitations to these events and also enjoy a semi-annual newsletter from the Center. The Center's Advisory Board includes a number of physician astronauts, prominent individuals from the space medicine community, and a NASA GRC representative.