Richard partnered with four key organization to plan and conduct scientific research during his mission to the ISS: NASA, ESA, and The Nature Conservancy.
Richard conducted three experiments in coordination with NASA during his spaceflight:
- NASA Visual Acuity Study – Until Richard’s flight, little was known about the effects on visual acuity after photorefractive keratectomy eye surgery or (PKE) – commonly known as laser eye surgery. There was reason to believe that microgravity, low and high pressures, and variation in oxygen concentration would effect visual acuity in orbit as inner eye pressure can increase by as much as 50%. Richard conducted experiments on behalf of NASA and as a result, he was the first astronaut to fly to space who had undergone a PKE procedure. The tests he conducted were critical in determining the stability of the procedure during a 10-day exposure to micogravity.
- NASA Immune System Study – Previous data suggested that there is a suppression of the immune system associated with spaceflight and the study Richard performed on behalf of NASA assessed potential effect during spaceflight by testing white blood cells for changes in function or response to stimulation as a consequence of spaceflight. This information helped determine astronauts’ clinical risk during spaceflight, and since his mission came mid-mission for some other astronauts, Richard was able to return fresh blood samples from long-duration crew members which have rarely been able to be sampled.
- NASA Sleep Study – Normal sleep patterns and body chemistry change notably during spaceflight. The data collected for this NASA study assisted in determining the efficacy of ongoing countermeasures for space – related sleep disturbances and may also assist in developing additional countermeasures which could potentially impact the health, productivity and safety of astronauts during spaceflight.
As the first British-born private astronaut, Richard worked with the European Space Agency to conduct three experiments during his spaceflight.
- ESA Early Detection of Osteoporosis “EDOS” Study – This consists of the following scientific protocol: Performing densitometry & bone architecture measurements, with the goal of evaluating the bone modifications process and evolution, at a micro-architectural level, on astronauts/cosmonauts tibia and radius. Performing analysis of astronauts blood samples in order to match their results (with regards to the elements responsible of the human bone cells modeling / (re)construction) with the ones obtained from the bone densitometry and architecture measurements
- ESA MOP Experiment – Obtain insight into the process of vestibular adaptation to G-transitions. Correlate the cosmonauts susceptibility to the Space Adaptation Syndrome (SAS) with the susceptibility to Sickness Induced by Centrifugation (SIC).
- ESA Muscle Experiment – This aimed to study the details on development of low back pain in astronauts during flight. Strain on the iliolumbarligaments increases with backward tilt of the pelvis combined with forward flexion of the spine. This is what astronauts may experience due to loss of curvature. The objective was to assess astronaut deep muscle corset atrophy in response to microgravity exposure. MRI data and questionnaire data obtained from Berlin Bed-Rest study was used for interpretation of low back pain questionnaire results.
The Nature Conservancy
Richard partnered with The Nature Conservancy to identify environmental change on the surface of Earth at sites of particular interest and to identify successful protection projects around the world. Comparing Richard’s with those of his father, former NASA Astronaut Owen Garriott who took many photographs of Earth during his missions to space aboard Skylab in 1973 and Spacelab-1 in 1983. One of the primary objectives of the Skylab missions was to photograph Earth. Using this photographic record, . Richard also worked with scientists from The Nature Conservancy to compare the ecological changes that elapse during one generation.
These locations include:
- Brazil’s landscapes
- Meili Glacier in Zhongdian, China
- Cotopaxi, stratovolcano in Ecuador
- Congo & Amazon deforestation