Bloomsburg University to host lecture by former NASA astronaut on human limits to trip to Mars

For Immediate Release

Date: January 22, 2020

Contact: Tom McGuire, Director of Communications

Bloomsburg University to host lecture by former NASA astronaut on human limits to trip to Mars

BLOOMSBURG—Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania presents Jim Pawelczyk, Ph.D. for a lecture titled “What Price a Martian? Human Limits to Exploring the Red Planet” on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 6 p.m. in McCormick Center, room 2303. This event is free and open to the public.

Pawelczyk, associate professor of physiology, kinesiology, and medicine at Penn State University and a former NASA astronaut, will explain current plans for human planetary exploration and highlight knowledge gaps and opportunities for human biologists to help reach the most audacious destination that humankind has ever contemplated, a trip to Mars.

A human trip to Martian orbit will be possible in the late 2020s, followed by landing operations between 2030 and 2040. The 30-month mission will expose humans to reduced loading; heavy, high-energy, ionizing radiation; confinement; and environmental conditions far outside the Earth’s.

Pawelczyk’s current research focuses on blood pressure regulation and how disuse atrophy affects 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 Pawelczyk has studied as a NASA-funded investigator for the past six years. 

In 1995, he was selected as a payload specialist for the Neurolab space shuttle mission and flew aboard STS-90 on the space shuttle Columbia in April and May of 1998. He logged 16 days and 6.4 million miles in space, circling the earth 256 times and conducting neuroscience.

Pawelczyk earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology from the University of Rochester in 1982, a master’s degree in physiology from Penn State University in 1985, and a doctoral degree in biology from the University of North Texas in 1989. In 1995, he joined the faculty at Penn State.

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 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 Extreme Environments.

Planning for the event is being done by the Department of Exercise Science and the lecture is sponsored by the Dean of the College of Science and Technology.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,200 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in five distinct colleges: College of Education, Zeigler College of Business, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science and Technology, and new Honors College.