The Human Research Program (HRP) was established in October 2005 at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in response to NASA's decision to move human research program management from Headquarters to the JSC and to focus its research investment on investigating and mitigating the highest risks to astronaut health and performance in support of exploration missions. Strategically, the HRP conducts research and technology development (R&TD) activities that: 1) enable the development or modification of Agency-level human health and performance standards by the Office of the Chief Health and Medical Officer (OCHMO) and 2) provide the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) with methods of meeting those standards in the design, development, and operation of mission systems.

Goals and Objectives
The HRP is an applied R&TD program that contributes to the NASA Strategic Plan, NASA Policy Directive (NPD) 1001.0, through:

  • Strategic Goal 1: Expand the frontiers of knowledge, capability, and opportunity in space.
    • Objective 1.2: Conduct research on the International Space Station (ISS) to enable future space exploration, facilitate a commercial space economy, and advance the fundamental biological and physical sciences for the benefit of humanity.

The goal of the HRP is to provide human health and performance countermeasures, knowledge, technologies, and tools to enable safe, reliable, and productive human space exploration. The specific objectives of the HRP are:

  1. Develop capabilities, necessary countermeasures, and technologies in support of human space exploration, focusing on mitigating the highest risks to crew health and performance. Enable the definition and improvement of human spaceflight medical, environmental and human factors standards.
  2. Develop technologies that serve to reduce medical and environmental risks, to reduce human systems resource requirements (mass, volume, power, data, etc.), and to ensure effective human-system integration across exploration mission systems.
  3. Ensure maintenance of Agency core competencies necessary to enable risk reduction in the following areas: space medicine; physiological and behavioral effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body; space environmental effects (including radiation) on human health and performance; and space human factors.

Risk Research Portfolio
The HRP risks fall within the purview of the OCHMO. The OCHMO established the Human System Risk Board (HSRB), chaired by the JSC Chief Medical Officer (CMO), to ensure a consistent, integrated process for managing human system risks that are critical to successful human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. If the evidence base for a risk indicates gaps in knowledge about characterizing or mitigating the risk, the HSRB may identify the risk as requiring research by the HRP. These risks become part of the HRP research portfolio and are documented as requirements in the HRP-47052, Human Research Program Requirements Document (PRD).

Exploration undertakings include low Earth orbit (one-year), cis-lunar, deep-space journey and planetary missions. Although the different missions involve some of the same human health and performance challenges, some may also face challenges that depend on the nature of the mission and the mission development schedule.

The development of the HRP content has been formulated around the management architecture (see
HRP Architecture) that describes evidence (documented in the risk Evidence Reports) as forming the basis of the existence of a risk to the human system, gaps in our knowledge about characterizing or mitigating the risk, and the tasks to be carried out in order to produce the deliverables needed to close the gaps and reduce the risk. As deliverables and new evidence are generated, a reassessment is made of the progress of risk reduction.

The Integrated Research Plan (IRP) documents the research tasks necessary to close the gaps and the logical sequence and timing of significant tasks, milestones (such as gap closure), and completion of major deliverables as laid out in the Path to Risk Reduction (PRR) timeline. The Integrated PRR (iPRR) is a graphical display of the long-range, strategic research plan and schedule and contains a top level summary of all the risks that are assigned to the HRP. The iPRR is used to communicate the strategy for reducing the risk-associated likelihood and consequence (LxC). The current version of the iPRR is given in the figure below.

The Human Research Roadmap (HRR) is the web-based tool for communicating the evidence that supports the HRP risks, the IRP's R&TD activities (including the planned schedules in the PRR), and reports from external panels that have reviewed the evidence or research plans. The
Figure below illustrates the integrated, or cross-disciplinary, nature of the HRP research as captured in the HRR relational database. Tasks or gaps may be associated with one or more gaps or risks, respectively.

Integrated Research Plan architecture diagram

Program Requirements
The HRP PRD defines, documents, and allocates the requirements to each of the HRP Program Elements: Behavioral Health and Performance (BHP), Exploration Medical Capability (ExMC), Human Health Countermeasures (HHC), ISS Medical Projects (ISSMP) (as an implementing Element, no risks assigned), Space Human Factors and Habitability (SHFH), and Space Radiation (SR). These HRP requirements are derived to satisfy the exploration mission requirements from the HEOMD and the OCHMO, as found in the Space Flight Human System Standards (NASA-STD-3001) Volume 1 (Crew Health) and Volume 2 (Human Factors, Habitability and Environmental Health). In addition, NASA/SP-2010-3407, Human Integration Design Handbook (HIDH), was published as a compendium of human spaceflight history, lessons learned, and design information for a wide variety of disciplines to serve as a companion document to NASA-STD-3001, Volume 2.

The HRP has three main responsibilities regarding these standards. In some cases, a NASA-STD-3001 requirement is written in generic terms to ensure its applicability to a wide range of mission environments (such as microgravity in orbit, lunar surface habitation, or transit to Mars). The HRP research can serve to inform the standard, refine the requirement, and help define processes or methods to meet the requirement. Where emerging evidence or knowledge may indicate that the standards are not written in a way that captures a complete set of relevant considerations, additional research may be conducted to facilitate an update.

The requirements in the PRD are divided into three categories: requirements related to human system standards; requirements related to human health and performance risks and concerns; and requirements related to provision of enabling capabilities. Each Element, with the exception of ISSMP, incorporates its respective PRD requirements into its specific Element Management Plan. These Elements subsequently derive a research plan to address the requirements. ISSMP implements the requirements identified by the other HRP Elements for research and technology demonstration tasks that require the use of the ISS or ground analogs, as appropriate.