At NASA, understanding the effects of weightlessness (microgravity) on human physiology has long been an important area of research. While we may take gravity for granted in our daily lives, microgravity is a major problem for astronauts on extended missions. Astronauts returning from flight missions of varying lengths show a host of symptoms that are similar to normal human aging, ranging from a loss of balance to muscle atrophy and loss of bone density.
Dr. Vernikos was the Director of Life Sciences at NASA Headquarters from 1993 until 2000. Before that, she was at NASA AMES in Mountain View which she joined in 1964. Dr. Joan Vernikos spent her career at the center of microgravity research at NASA. She has faced the challenges of studying the effects of microgravity using Earth-bound simulations. She was also at the forefront of space research on humans in microgravity. Dr. Vernikos will discuss the results of her research and the challenges of simulating the effects of zero gravity. She will also share how her observations lead her to conclusions regarding the relationship between aging and gravity here on Earth. Today, Dr. Vernikos is an advocate for proactively using gravity as an essential part of retaining youthful health and vigor whatever your age.
For her work and her leadership in the space sciences, Dr. Vernikos received numerous awards including the Strughold and Leverett Awards from the Aerospace Medical Association, the Jeffries Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Women in Aerospace, and NASA's Exceptional Scientific Achievement and two Exceptional Leadership Awards. Her recent book, "The G-Connection: Harness Gravity and Reverse Aging", applies lessons learned from U.S. astronauts and Russian cosmonauts living in space without gravity's influence, to healthy living on Earth.