Health Standards for Long Duration and Exploration Spaceflight: Ethics Principles, Responsibilities, and Decision Framework


Report at a Glance

As the US space program evolves, propelled in part by increasing international and commercial collaborations, long duration or exploration spaceflights – such as extended stays on the International Space Station or missions to Mars – become more realistic. These types of missions will likely expose crews to levels of known risk that are beyond those allowed by current health standards, as well as to a range of risks that are poorly characterized, uncertain, and perhaps unforeseeable. As NASA and Congress discuss the next generation of NASA’s missions and the US role in international space efforts, it is important to understand the ethical factors that drive decision making about health standards and mission design for NASA activities.

NASA asked the IOM to outline the ethics principles and practices that should guide the agency’s decision making for future long duration or exploration missions that fail to meet existing health standards. The IOM’s report identifies an ethics framework, which builds on the work of NASA and others, and presents a set of recommendations for ethically assessing and responding to the challenges associated with health standards for long duration and exploration spaceflight.