Experiments executed on the upper limbs are assuming increasing significance in Human Physiology research in space, principally for two reasons:
The degradation of the performances affecting the muscle-skeletal system can be easily recognised on the upper limbs, by executing specific scientific protocols, repeated through the permanence of the subject in weightless conditions.
Another aspect relevant to the effect of microgravity on the upper limb is associated with the alteration of motor control programs, affecting not only the bio-mechanics of the subject, but in general all his/her psychophysical conditions, induced by the totally different environment. Specific protocols on the upper limbs can facilitate the studies on learning mechanisms for motor control. The results of such experiments can be transferred to Earth, and can be useful for the treatment of subjects with local traumas or diseases of the Central Nervous System.
The HPA (already used on board the ISS during the "Marco Polo" mission with astronaut R. Vittori and during Increment 7 and 8 of the ISS, with astronauts E. Lu and M. Foale) is a facility of instruments for the study of the performances of the upper limbs of astronauts.
The HPA experimental program focuses on the following aspects:
HPA is a facility of instruments for the study of the performances of the upper limb of the astronauts. In particular the experimentation addresses two main aspects:
The HPA hardware consists of two dynamometers (Handgrip and Pinch Force DynamometersÂ - HGD/PFD) for measuring handgrip and pinch forces, together with a gloved instrumentation device (Posture Acquisition GloveÂ - PAG) that the astronaut wears, which allows for measurement of the bending angles on individual fingers. This is attached to an electronic box (Wrist Electronic BoxÂ - WEB), which houses an inertial tracking system made up of accelerometers and gyroscopes in order to determine the linear and angular motion, rotation and acceleration of the hand and forearm in all directions.
The experiment is performed each day, during 6 consecutive mission days, approximately at 9:00 a.m., after breakfast. If occasionally it is not possible to perform the experiment after breakfast (e.g. Crewmember busy with high priority operations), the daily session can be rescheduled for the next useful time slot; in this event the following session will restart in any case after the subsequent breakfast.
The duration of each session is approximately 45 minutes (6 sessions preferred but minimum 3), for a total of 4.5 Hours. Additional time for set up (1 hour) and stowage (30 minutes) is required. Therefore the total crew time during the mission is 6 hours.
The HPA experiment is complemented by three on-ground Baseline Data Collection (BDC) sessions that will be performed before the flight (one BDC session) and post-flight (two BDC sessions). The BDC session before flight will be performed during the Experimental Operator training session. One post-flight BDC session will be performed as soon as possible after landing, while the second BDC session will take place one week later.
The Hand Posture Analyser experiment will consist of three separate research protocols:
P. Pastacaldi, P. Orsini, F. Bracciaferri, G. Neri, M. Porciani, L. Liuni, V. Zolesi, (2002), "Short term microgravity effect on isometric hand grip and precision pinch force with visual and proprioceptive feedback", COSPAR, F1.1-0013-02.
V. Zolesi, A. Norfini, G. Neri, (2003), "Hand Posture Analyzer: a Facility for the Study of the Human Upper Limb on the ISS", 54th IAC Conference, DOI: 10.2514/6.IAC‐03‐G.P.15.
P. Pastacaldi, P. Orsini, F. Bracciaferri, G. Neri, M. Porciani, L. Liuni, V. Zolesi, (2004), "Short term microgravity effect on isometric hand grip and precision pinch force with visual and proprioceptive feedback", Advances in Space Research, 33, 8, pp. 1368-1374.
J.J.W.A. van Loon, F.J. Medina, H. Stenuit, E. Istasse, M. Heppener, R. Marco, (2007), "The National-ESA Soyuz missions Andromède, Marco Polo, Odissea, Cervantes, DELTA and Eneide", Microgravity Science and Technology, 19, 5-6, DOI: 10.1007/BF02919448, pp. 9-32.
V. Zolesi, (2007), "Long-Term Microgravity Effect on Isometric Hand Grip and Precision Pinch Force with Visual and Proprioceptive Feedback", presentation.
F. Pacelli, A. Paoli, V. Zolesi, A. Norfini, A. Donati, C. Reggiani, (2009), "Implementation and ground validation of a facility for functional and structural analysis of proximal upper limb muscles in microgravity", Basic Applied Myology, 19, 2-3, pp. 77-86.
I. Puglia, M. Balsamo, M. Vukich, V. Zolesi, (2018), "Long-Term Microgravity Effects on Isometric Handgrip and Precision Pinch Force with Visual and Proprioceptive Feedback", International Journal of Aerospace Engineering, 2018, DOI: 10.1155/2018/1952630, pp. article ID 1952630.