Physical Performance and Performance Capacity in Microgravity: Evaluation of an Astronaut specific Fitness Assessment Battery

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Since the European Space Agency (ESA) joined the crew for a long duration space mission on the International Space Station (ISS), the Space Medicine Office (SMO) has supported ten long duration missions (LDM) with European astronauts. More than a third of the crew time in orbit is dedicated to daily countermeasure exercise to minimize decrease in body mass, strength and aerobic capacity. The European countermeasure concept was developed with the onset of ESA LDMs and has evolved over the past decade. The concept associated with multiple constraints affecting physical performance capacity and limited ability to assess astronaut health and condition. Regardless, operational concepts are in place and used, although they are not fully evaluated. In-flight countermeasure exercises are implemented on ISS and functional fitness assessments are performed pre- and post-mission with ESA crew members. A detailed evaluation and description of countermeasure exercise and assessment methods is not yet available. Methods. The ESA astronaut fitness assessment (AFA) was evaluated for reliability with a test-re-rest-study in a laboratory. ESA ISS in-flight countermeasures exercise methods and data were analyzed, and a post-flight recovery case report of a single ESA LDM crew member examined pre- versus post-flight performance to assess the efficiency of in-flight countermeasures and post-flight reconditioning. Results. The evaluation of the AFA demonstrated that most, but not all, test elements were reliable, and that modifications of the balance and single leg jump assessment were recommended. The description of the ESA astronaut countermeasure methods and astronaut data showed load increases for all evaluated (eight) crew members, however direct performance measurements could not be provided and in-flight exercise performance is strongly influenced by hardware constraints. The case study evaluated one ESA crew members’ performance recovery after a LDM and, despite intensive in-flight exercise training, impairments of post-flight performance were observed. It highlighted the need for identifying in-flight and post-flight training strategies for more efficiently preserving dynamic powerful movements. A strategy (e.g. harmonization of physical performance assessments across all agencies) to enhance the amount of data for comparison, given the difficult technical conditions on the space station, would be desirable to maximize outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKöln
PublisherDeutsche Sporthochschule Köln
Number of pages57
Publication statusPublished - 2016

ID: 3030247

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