212577 An update on mortality in the U.S. astronaut corps: 1959-2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009

April Clark, DrPH, MPH , Space Medicine, Longitudinal Study of Astronaut Health, JES Tech/Wyle Laboratories/NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
E. Amirian, PhD, MSPH
Melissa K. Halm, MPH , Space Medicine, Longitudinal Study of Astronaut Health, MEI Technologies/Wyle Laboratories/NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
Heather J. Hartnett, PhD , Space Medicine, Longitudinal Study of Astronaut Health, Wyle Laboratories/NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
Although it has been over 50 years since mankind first ventured into space, the long-term health impacts of human space flight remain largely unknown. Identifying factors that affect survival and prognosis among participants in space flight is vitally important, as the era of commercial space flight approaches and NASA prepares for missions to Mars. The Longitudinal Study of Astronaut Health is a prospective study designed to examine trends in astronaut morbidity and mortality. The purpose of this analysis was to describe and explore predictors of overall and cause-specific mortality among individuals selected for the U.S. astronaut corps. All U.S. astronauts (n=321), regardless of flight status, were included in this analysis. Death certificate searches were conducted to ascertain vital status and cause of death through April 2009. Data were collected from medical records and lifestyle questionnaires. Multivariable Cox regression modeling was used to calculate the mortality hazard associated with embarking on space flight, adjusted for sex, race, and age. Between 1959 and 2009, there were 39 (12.1%) deaths. Of these deaths, 18 (42.2%) were due to occupational accidents; 7 (17.9%) were due to other accidents; 6 (15.4%) were attributable to cancer; 6 (15.4%) resulted from cardiovascular/circulatory diseases; and 2 (5.1%) were from other causes. Participation in space flight did not significantly impact mortality hazard over time (adjusted hazard ratio=0.57; 95% CI=0.26-1.26). Because our results are based on a small sample size, future research that includes payload specialists, other space flight participants, and international crew members is warranted to maximize statistical power.

Learning Objectives:
Identify factors that are predictive of morality among U.S. astronauts. Describe causes of mortality among astronauts who partake in space flight.

Keywords: Mortality, Occupational Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Doctoral-level epidemiologist for the Longitudinal Study of Astronaut Health
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.