As NASA designs space flights requiring prolonged periods of weightlessness for a broader segment of the population, it will be important to know the acute and sustained effects of weightlessness on the cardiovascular system since this information will contribute to understanding of the clinical pharmacology of drugs administered in space. Due to operational constraints on space flights, earliest effects of weightlessness have not been documented. We examined hemodynamic responses of humans to transitions from acceleration to weightlessness during parabolic flight on NASA's KC-135 aircraft. Impedance cardiography data were collected over four sets of 8-10 parabolas, with a brief rest period between sets. Each parabola included a period of 1.8 Gz, then approximately 20 seconds of weightlessness, and finally a period of 1.6 Gz; the cycle repeated almost immediately for the remainder of the set. Subjects were semi-supine (Shuttle launch posture) for the first set, then randomly supine, sitting and standing for each subsequent set. Transition to weightlessness while standing produced decreased heart rate, increased thoracic fluid content, and increased stroke index. Surprisingly, the onset of weightlessness in the semi-supine posture produced little evidence of a headward fluid shift. Heart rate, stroke index, and cardiac index are virtually unchanged after 20 seconds of weightlessness, and thoracic fluid content is slightly decreased. Semi-supine responses run counter to Shuttle crewmember reports of noticeable fluid shift after minutes to hours in orbit. Apparently, the headward fluid shift commences in the semi-supine posture before launch. is augmented by launch acceleration, but briefly interrupted immediately in orbit, then resumes and is completed over the next hours.
Journal of clinical pharmacology (ISSN 0091-2700); Volume 29; 7; 615-27