The beginnings

The role of ALTEC in Space Biomedicine is well established since years, thanks to a close collaboration with the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the scientific community, largely represented by the ISSBB – Italian Society of Space Biomedicine and Biotechnology and by AIMAS – Italian Association of Aerospace Medicine.

This role, which started in the mid-90s, showed in recent years a strong increase in visibility and commonality of intent with the Agency on the one hand and scientific communities on the other.

The “historic” phase of ALTEC entrance in the field of space medicine and biotechnology dates back to 2005 – 2009, with the participation in three major programs promoted by ASI: OSMA – Osteoporosis and Muscular Atrophy, DCMC – Control Disorders Motor and Cardiorespiratory, MoMA – Biotechnology from Molecules to Man

ALTEC previous contributions in these areas were, between 2003 and 2005, support  to ASI for the development of MDS and ALTEA. ALTEC was also responsible for supporting the missions of Italian astronauts (Vittori, Nespoli) and certification and integration of the Italian experiments on the ISS.


Recent developments

The three programs OSMA-MOMA and DCMC triggered in the national scientific community a process of self-recognition of those researchers interested in Space and in gravitational physiology and biomedicine. This process led to founding in 2006 the ISSBB – Italian Society of Space Biomedicine and Biotechnology. In the same period ALTEC intensified its efforts in the strategic objective to act as a reference point for researchers interested in on-orbit research, ALTEC so decide to apply in the field of physiological, medical, biological and biotechnological its mission of “Italian Spacegate for the ISS.”

Staring from this strategic decision, the recent years led to remarkable results: for example, a massive participation in calls for on-ground and in-orbit research, issued by ASI between 2011 and 2012: ALTEC intended to respond with enthusiasm to the effort that the Agency has put in place, despite years of hard economic times, to allow their relevant scientific community not to interrupt the journey begun in previous years.

This allowed the establishment of a small but very motivated ALTEC team for SPACE BIOMEDICINE to pursue these issues.

The response of the scientific community to the ALTEC efforts for cooperation was great. ALTEC proposals (as Prime or Subcontractor) to the ASI calls received – thanks to the high science content and the capability to team with research groups of excellence – a great placement in the ASI selected proposals list.

Two ALTEC proposals have been selected for experiments on the ground in view of applications in orbit, in response to the invitation ASI “MED“.

Subsequently ALTEC presented 11 proposals in response to the notice ASI “VUS”. All of them were judged appropriate by the ASI for flight to the International Space Station and will be financed in the coming years



As you can see from the table, the experiments in which ALTEC will be involved in the coming years range in a wide field of subjects: advanced sensors for physiological parameters, psychology, radioprotection, logistics of perishable biological samples, augmented reality technologies to support space operations, promotion of the use of patents from space activities, remote control of equipment from space with innovative operator interaction, acoustic aspects, studies related to physiological and biological aspects of impact for syndromes such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer .

Initiatives at national and international

These efforts have been appreciated by the scientific community and institutions, and this led in recent years to step up cooperation relationship with ALTEC through a direct involvement in the main institutions: for example, this has led to the request by various steering committees to have the ALTEC responsible for the programs of Space Biomedicine as part of their institutions.
As a result, currently the ALTEC program manager for Space Biomedicine is a member of:
– the Board of Directors of the ISSBB – Italian Society of Space Biomedicine and Biotechnology
– AIMAS – Italian Association of Aerospace Medicine
– ELGRA-European Low Gravity Association
– the Scientific Committee of the ASI Journal SpaceMag

ALTEC was accepted to join the prestigious NASA institute HHPC dedicated to the aspects of health and human performance in space and its impact on Earth. This implies joining a network of public and private institutions coordinated by NASA and opens the possibility of a whole series of important INTERNATIONAL collaborations.


ALTEC was also invited by the President of the Scientific Committee of the Italian Space Agency and by the Italian Embassy of Moscow, to participate to a Russian-Italian group for the study of joint research between the Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences IMBP and Italian research institutes. The works started with the seminar “Life Sciences in Space for Earth” in MOSCOW.




The meeting in Moscow that started a promising new phase of Italian-Russian cooperation in the field of space medicine. Fifth from left ALTEC’s representative, program manager of Space Biomedicine M.Benassai.

A major project for the establishment at ALTEC premises of a National Center to serve as a hub for the Italian Space Biomedicine was promoted initially by ALTEC and later married by the scientific community (and subsequently ISSBB and AIMAS) and presented in various national and international conferences (ESA Life in Space for Life on Earth; IAC-IAF, ISSBB, meeting in Moscow, etc. ..).

The center must serve the Italian researchers and companies operating in the sector to maximize the return to ground of methodologies and technologies developed for space.

The prestigious Societies ISSBB (Italian Society of Space Biomedicine and Biotechnology) and SIA (Italian Society for Astrobiology) proposed that to have in ALTEC premises their 2014 national congresses.

ALTEC promotes among researchers the use of the Neutral Buoyancy Test Facility – NBTF, a pool completely above ground that can hold an entire real size replica of a module of the ISS, with three large windows, control room and audio links with operators during the dive.

The NBTF has been widely used for simulation and verification of aspects strongly related to human performance within human factors, ergonomics, accessibility and operability in simulated microgravity procedures for intra and extra vehicular ISS  activities (Columbus, Logistics Modules, experiments).

In addition to the uses above described and connected to the engineering and operations of space technologies, the NBTF is now proposed, possibly associated with the use of virtual reality immersion, as a promising tool to perform neurophysiological research on, for example, studies of perception of orientation, balance, locomotion, posture, control of physiological parameters, decoupling of visual and proprioceptive information, internal models on gravity and ability to predict the motion of objects.
The ALTEC pool of has been included in the list of ESA Ground Based Facilities, so making available this facility to all European researchers.


In the course of 2012, the ALTEC Space Biomedical area presented the following papers / speeches

European Space Agency (ESA) – International Society for Gravitational Physiology (ISGP)
Joint Life Science Meeting – Life in Space for Life on Earth Symposium
18-22 June 2012

University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom:

Mario Benassai
The ALTEC – Neutral Buoyancy Test Facility: a Powerful for Research for Physiology and Neuroscience Studies

Mario Benassai and Saverio Ambesi Impiombato
Health from Space to Ground – A Centre to Foster Italy Impressive Achievements in Space Medicine and Biotechnology

39th COSPAR Scientific Assembly
Mysore, India, 14-22 July 2012

Saverio Ambesi Impiombato, Mario Benassai
The Italian Space Health and Technology Centre: a Common

Need among Space Scientists, Industries, Agencies and More.

Napoli 1 -5 October 2012

Saverio Ambesi Impiombato, Mario Benassai
An Italian Center for Transferring Health Methodologies from Space to

Alessandro Angrilli, Clelia Maria Giulia (Liuccia) Buzzoni, Mario Benassai, Alessandro Bellomo
Psychobiology of Cognition and Creativity in Space Environment

25 al 27 ottobre 2012,

Saverio Ambesi Impiombato, Mario Benassai
Uno HUB Italiano per la Biomedicina Spaziale

Mario Benassai
Trasferimento tecnologico tra terra e spazio