MSS19 Internship Stories: Sara Khan and Scott Ritter at DLR, Germany


International Space University ISU Master of Space Studies MSS19 students Sara Khan and Scott Ritter report from a new country and culture, Germany! “Our ISU internships bring us to Cologne, where we are “Praktikanten” (trainees) at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute for Aerospace Medicine.”

“The institute conducts interdisciplinary research to improve human biological, medical, and psychological health and performance in aviation and space. In addition, complex questions regarding life-support systems and human interaction with the space environment are addressed and contribute to solving environmental problems on Earth.

Aspects of human physiology, psychology, circadian rhythms, bone and muscle metabolism, cardiovascular medicine, and gravitational and radiation biology are investigated in the institute’s world-class Envihab facilities. These facilities enable standardized simulations, state of the art imaging, and highly controlled environmental conditions, such as atmospheric composition, pressure, gravity, noise, radiation, and microbiome, all which serve to closely model the space environment.

Sara is designing and modelling a sounding rocket module under the supervision of Dr. Jens Hauslage and Dr. Christian Liemersdorf. The module will host an experiment investigating electrical activity of neurons in microgravity. Learning and performing techniques to isolate mouse embryonic neurons and culturing methods has made this internship an exciting interdisciplinary experience! The study will conduct further experiments in altered gravity platforms, namely, drop tower, parabolic flight, and centrifuge. The goal of the study is to shed light on the changes in astronaut mental performance due to microgravity.

Scott, under mentorship by Dr. med. Claudia Stern, is investigating the use of machine learning as a tool to assist clinicians in monitoring retinal changes related to Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS). In true ISU style, this project is a 3Is collaborative effort with colleagues at DLR, the European Astronaut Center (EAC), the University of Bonn Eye Hospital, and others. Once completed, the results of this work may inform future artificial intelligence applications for spaceflight technologies and medical imaging tools, for use in space or in remote regions on Earth.

With backgrounds in engineering and medicine, we feel right at home. We are very excited about our work and look forward to developing useful products to support the institute’s research aims and human health and performance in space. Maybe our work will one day fly to space! Until then, we wish you a great summer and close with our thoughts for the long term and the DLR motto: „Wissen für Morgen“ or "Knowledge for Tomorrow"!”

MSS19 students Scott and Sara with ISU Chancellor and DLR Chair of the Executive Board , Prof. Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund  at the German Aerospace Center

Picture credits: ISU - MSS19 students Scott Ritter and Sara Khan with ISU Chancellor and DLR Chair of the Executive Board ,Prof. Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund at the German Aerospace Center.

Cover picture credits: Scott Ritter - MSS19 students Scott Ritter and Sara with internship mentors Dr. C. Stern, Dr. J. Hauslage, and Dr. C. Liemersdorf at DLR Institute for Aerospace Medicine.