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Axiom-1 RAKIA - New health monitoring apps for human spaceflight

As human spaceflight becomes more common, accelerated by commercial activities, missions like Axiom-1 provide the opportunity to test new solutions for health monitoring in space, where prolonged exposure to microgravity conditions affects physiological functions of the human body. During the RAKIA mission, our ICE Cubes Service is supporting also some activities that involve tablet applications for performing a series of tests onboard the ISS.

With increased human presence in space, and new space stations and habitats being developed to expand the scope of space missions, astronauts will need a variety of modern diagnostic tools to screen and monitor their health under conditions of microgravity. ICE Cubes had the opportunity to support the implementation of two such solutions for testing onboard the ISS during the RAKIA mission on Axiom-1 .

In a first of its kind activity, the goal of was to conduct an ‘albumin to creatinine ratio’ (ACR) urinalysis test in space, enabling astronauts to measure kidney function and get results immediately, using a tablet app.

Prior to the analysis, urine has to be collected via a special device where a dipstick is immersed. The dipstick is then removed, clipped on to a color board, and scanned with a tablet running a special (space edition) version of the Minuteful – Kidney Test app, to conduct algorithmic analysis and produce the results.

Typically, urinalysis is used as the standard method to screen for a number of conditions, ranging from metabolic conditions to kidney function. While the topic of kidney function in space has been researched, previous studies involved capturing urine in space to be sent frozen back to Earth for testing. Testing this capability will enable astronaut crews to obtain immediate medical diagnostic information, which is particularly relevant as missions to space become longer. Additionally, enabling urinalysis in space will help further the existing research into kidney function and could be valuable in expanding research into the effects of space on proteinuria, which is currently limited.


Albumin to creatinine ratio test for kidney function

Living in space can also affect eyesight and cause neuro-ocular syndrome. The reported symptoms include degraded vision, changes in the optic nerve, in the retina, and a change in the refractive error, with some persisting after return to Earth.

An activity proposed and led by researchers at Bar-Ilan University and the Israel Aerospace Medicine Institute (IAMI), the ‘Reflective Eye Test‘ is intended to investigate the effects of microgravity on visual function, by using a tablet app in assessing eye fitness before, during and after a task.

Spaceflight associated with neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS) was reported recently in association with prolonged exposure to weightlessness. The aim of the activity is to study the in-flight effects of weightlessness on visual function, the early onset of SANS, as well as recovery of visual functions. The study will utilize proven, dedicated eye vision tests software for assessing visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and visual crowding, installed on a tablet that enables quick and reliable evaluation of visual functions before, during, and after the space mission.

Commercial spaceflight comes with a different approach to conducting activities in space, tapping into the solutions already available on different non-space/terrestrial markets. Rapid development of technology on ground in recent years now offers a wide range of tools, applications and off-the-shelf solutions that can be quickly adapted for utilization in space, not only allowing for more advanced activities and processes, but also shortening significantly the time required for integration, implementation and data retrieval.

Both activities prove that commercially-available user-friendly apps, developed and tested for non-space purposes, can be adapted to serve the needs of astronauts and to enable a better understanding of the challenges to human physiology in space. Such solutions will also become essential as we prepare for deep space human missions, where these effects will be even more severe than in LEO.

neuro-ocular syndrome associated with prolonged weightlessness
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