Did you know astronauts aboard the International Space Station experience about 16 “sunsets” per day because the station circles Earth every 90 minutes? These changes in light can affect crewmembers’ circadian rhythm and cause sleep disruptions. As a result, NASA has been studying light and its effects on space exploration for decades.
In our December Thought Leader Series, presented by The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), a panel of experts discusses what light is, how we see it, and how it affects space exploration. Discover how scientists are studying the physical and psychological effects of lighting aboard spacecraft, as well as lighting conditions in future space habitats.
About the panel
Panelists include Steven W. Lockley, Haniyeh Mirdamadi, and Robert Hurt.
Dr. Lockley is a Neuroscientist in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School. Lockley has studied circadian rhythms and sleep for over 25 years. He has studied the impact of circadian disruption, long work hours, sleepiness and sleep disorders on performance and health in many groups including astronauts. He has studied the properties of light for resetting circadian rhythms and alertness, and ground-tested new LED lighting now installed in the International Space Station (ISS). He co-leads a current study to measure the impact of a tunable LED lighting system in astronaut circadian rhythms, sleep and performance aboard the ISS. He has also studied circadian rhythms and sleep in Antarctic stations, is developing new biomarkers for circadian rhythms and sleepiness and has studied the impact of lighting interventions in the NASA HERA analog, the Mars Phoenix Lander Mission, the Mars 105-day study, and Mission Control. He also advises NASA on how to alleviate jetlag for astronauts traveling the globe and shiftwork at Mission Control and in space.
Mirdamadi is a Lighting Designer and Researcher with a background in visual communication and human-centered design. She is an expert in lighting design for extreme environments, specifically outer space. She is interested in the visual and non-visual effects of light on human chronobiology and cognitive performance in extreme, isolated and confined environments. As part of her Masters studies, she has extensively researched the role of light on human psychological health and the effects of deprivation from earthly light phenomena through long-duration space expeditions, and human colonization of planets beyond Earth. Her passion in promoting human well-being for extreme living conditions has led to winning first place in the finale of NASA Phase III, 3D printed Habitat challenge in 2019 along with her team, AI.SpaceFactory, and first place with her team, Mars Colony X, in the 2018 Mars City Design Competition.
Dr. Hurt is an astronomer at Caltech-IPAC with a research background in star formation and galaxies. He specializes in data visualization and the development of illustrations and video to help explain science to the public. His data visualizations span a wide range of NASA missions including Spitzer, Kepler, WISE/NEOWISE, NuSTAR, and GALEX. He has developed immersive VR and planetarium experiences and is part of NASA’s Universe of Learning team, contributing to a number of projects, including AstroPix and Universe Unplugged videos.