Students Boldly Go to Grad Program on Space

Texas Education Coordinating Board Approves Master of Human Space Exploration Sciences Degree

In the year that we celebrate the 40th anniversary of man's first landing on the moon, the University of Houston unveils a new path for students looking to reach the stars. This fall marks the beginning of the master's of human space exploration sciences, offering a one-of-a-kind program to equip students who aspire to work in the space industry.

The program is available through the department of health and human performance (HHP) and also will serve those currently in the space industry who want avenues for professional development.

"There is nothing like this anywhere," said William Paloski, professor of health and human performance. "For a person to learn the kinds of things that will be taught in this program, they literally would have to receive on-the-job-training in many different professional positions, which is very unlikely." Paloski comes to UH from NASA where he researched biomechanics and the impact of space flight on astronauts. This research has application to the elderly and those who are mobility-challenged.

Courses will include physiology programs to understand how space flight affects the body, techniques for building and testing hardware used for space flight and how humans may adapt to living in the extreme environments of the moon or Mars. There also is a management component and courses on the history of the space program.

"One of our goals is to draw students into a Ph.D. program. Another is to assist current employees of the space program to continue their professional development," Paloski said. "We hope to keep talented people-new and current-from leaving the industry and leaving Houston."

Having Paloski, a noted researcher from the space industry, and Gary Kitmacher, on loan from NASA to UH, to develop and facilitate the new program brings real-world experience and research to the next generation of industry workers.

Paloski spent 23 years at NASA as a researcher in its neuroscience laboratory researching postural stability, control, and performance before and after space flight. He also maintained laboratories at Kennedy Space Center, the Dryden Flight Research Center in California and the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.

Kitmacher has been with NASA since 1985 and has served as the space and life sciences directorate manager overseeing various aspects of astronauts' health and habitat. He also has designed aspects of the international space station as well as habitats for the moon and Mars. He is with UH through an inter-personnel arrangement (IPA) with NASA, which allows him to work with the university without leaving his NASA post. Typically, IPAs extend for three years.

In addition, HHP department chair and professor Charles Layne and associate professor Mark Clarke will offer classes based on their extensive space life science research at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC). Layne investigates the development of human coordination primarily from a neuromuscular perspective.

Clarke has been a staff scientist at JSC's Division of Life Science before joining HHP. His research involves muscle physiology, muscle adaptation to mechanical loading, and cellular basis of muscle function in health and disease. Currently, he is studying bone loss in astronauts after long space flights and how sweat can be used as an indicator of bone mineral loss.

Additionally, the College of Education has a space act agreement that allows students and faculty and NASA scientists to share information and resources.

For more information on the UH Department of Health and Human Performance, visit

For more information on HHP faculty, visit