While talk of space tourism continues to skyrocket, students at Missouri University of Science and Technology are working to improve cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) – a crucial emergency procedure – in a microgravity environment. Their tests could lead to greater safety for future space travelers.
Even with the rigorous standards of health set forth by NASA and other space agencies, studies have shown that up to one-third of shuttle crewmembers have exhibited premature ventricular contractions, a form of arrhythmia, while in space.
“CPR is a lifesaving treatment that’s used when an individual’s heart either stops beating or is in an irregular rhythm that results in little to no blood circulation,” says Keenan Johnson, a sophomore in computer engineering and president of Missouri S&T’s Miners in Space student organization. “As space flight duration increases and the general populace starts to journey into space, the likelihood of an event should drastically increase, and is almost inevitable.”
Currently, NASA’s approved CPR method can take between two and four minutes before actual chest compressions are started. The method requires two rescuers.
“Standard CPR compresses the chest in order to manually pump blood through the body,” Johnson explains. “We intend to convert an active compression-decompression device for use in microgravity, which will lift the chest in addition to compressing it.”
In December, S&T’s Miners in Space team was one of 14 selected by NASA to participate in the agency’s Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program (RGEFP).
“The program provides unique opportunities for students all over the country to experience life as a scientist or engineer in the working world,” says Douglas Goforth, RGEFP manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “We hope the experience of performing experiments in microgravity will help inspire students to pursue careers in technical fields.”
S&T’s team will conduct its experiments June 8-16 at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The tests will be done aboard an aircraft modified to mimic a reduced-gravity environment. The aircraft will fly approximately 30 parabolas with roller-coaster-like climbs and dips to produce periods of weightlessness and hyper-gravity ranging from 0 to 2 g’s.
Members of the team include: