Designing behavioral health solutions for future mars explorers

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine selected three innovative companies with new approaches to protect astronaut health and performance on a mission to Mars.

TRISH funds health research and technology to protect astronauts during long-duration space missions. During long-duration space exploration, any adverse cognitive or behavioral health conditions could become a critical risk. Crew must endure extreme stress, isolation, confinement and communication delays throughout the three-year journey to Mars and back.

To address these hazards, the Institute called for proposals from companies with new approaches to predict cognitive or behavioral changes in astronaut crew, ways to prevent decline or methods to diagnose and treat the astronauts.

“There have been historically high levels of company technology development and investment activity in behavioral and mental health technologies in recent years. We wanted to encourage these exciting efforts to address the needs of space health and NASA’s needs during exploration missions,” said TRISH Deputy Director and Chief Innovation Officer James Hury. “We look forward to helping these companies design behavioral health tools that should be a part of NASA’s future medical kit.”

The companies were selected to receive a one-year grant of $100,000 to $500,000 to advance the proposed health technology.

Awarded companies and projects are:

• Z3VR, Josh Ruben, Houston

Oculometric Cognition Testing and Analysis in Virtual Environments (OCTAVE)

• Ejenta, Rachna Dahmija, Ph.D., San Francisco

Conversational Intelligent Agents for Astronaut Behavioral Health and Performance

• Holobiome, Philip Strandwitz, Ph.D., Cambridge, Mass.

Development of Next-Generation Probiotics to Combat Mental Health Risks for Space Travel

As a partner to the NASA Human Research Program, the Translational Research Institute for Space Health helps solve the health challenges to human deep-space exploration. The Institute finds and funds disruptive, breakthrough research and technologies that can reduce risks to astronaut health and performance.

The Institute is funded through a cooperative agreement with NASA to Baylor College of Medicine and includes consortium partners Caltech and MIT.

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