Seminar Series: Jim Pawelczyk, Astronaut

“What Price A Martian? Human Limits To Exploring The Red Planet”

Exploration of Mars is well underway. We have spacecraft, landers and rovers providing imagery and data about the Red Planet that will help inform future human trips to Mars, sometime in the middle of this century. Martian explorers will spend about 30 months away from Earth, double what any human has experienced to date. What unique challenges will they face? How will the human body adapt during that time? Can we do anything to stop it, or should we? Astronaut and professor Jim Pawelczyk will explore these questions and more as he answers perhaps the most fundamental question of space exploration: Are human beings the limiting factor?

James A. (Jim) Pawelczyk received Bachelor of Arts Degrees in Biology and Psychology from the University of Rochester in 1982, a Masters of Science in Physiology from Penn State University in 1985, and a Ph.D. in Biology (Physiology) from the University of North Texas in 1989. He currently works at the Pennsylvania State University, where he has faculty appointments in Physiology, Kinesiology and Medicine.

Dr. Pawelczyk’s research focuses on the dynamic regulation of blood pressure, and how disuse atrophy affects blood pressure regulation. Problems with moment-to-moment regulation of blood pressure lead to orthostatic intolerance, an inability to maintain adequate blood flow to the brain that affects as many as 500,000 Americans. The condition is routinely observed following spaceflight, which Dr. Pawelczyk studies as a NASA- funded investigator. He flew on the space shuttle Columbia in 1998 as a Payload Specialist for the 16-day Neurolab (STS-90) space shuttle mission, conducting neuroscience experiments that addressed changes in the development of the nervous system, balance, blood pressure regulation, sleep, and control movement during spaceflight.

Dr. Pawelczyk assists the formation of U.S. space life sciences strategy. He has testified before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space, and the House Subcommittee on Space. He is an active member of the NASA Advisory Council’s Research Subcommittee for Human Exploration, the National Research Council’s Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space, and the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Aerospace Medicine and the Medicine of Extreme Environment.

The presentation can be seen here.
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