Danish architecture studio SAGA Space Architects, a startup incubated in the ESA BIC Denmark programme, is tackling the significant challenge of sleep deprivation among astronauts in space in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science. Their innovative project involves testing the Circadian Light, a new lighting system, on the International Space Station (ISS). The ultimate aim is to enhance astronauts’ well-being during space missions and pave the way for future settlements on the Moon and Mars.
The Circadian Light Panel, designed by SAGA, will be transported to the ISS in the coming summer. ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen, as part of the HUGINN Mission, will evaluate the efficacy of the system during his six-month stay on the ISS. This mission will provide a crucial opportunity to address the sleep challenges that astronauts face in the unique environment of the space station.
Insomnia is a significant concern for astronauts, with studies showing they average only six hours of sleep per night, well below the recommended eight-and-a-half hours. Factors such as confined sleeping quarters, mechanical noises and psychological effects of isolation contribute to this sleep deprivation. However, the absence of natural light to regulate their circadian rhythms remains a fundamental cause.
SAGA Space Architects undertook a 90-day analog space mission in Northern Greenland to develop a solution to this issue. They successfully tested a prototype of the Circadian Light Panel, simulating natural sunrise, adjusting light throughout the day and ending with a warm sunset. This approach effectively controlled the crew’s circadian rhythms, alleviated monotony and improved their sleep patterns. Psychological studies supported these findings.
The Circadian Light Panel, tailored for the ISS Crew Quarters, utilises seven different types of LEDs to emit a customised light spectrum resembling natural circadian rhythms. With three faces emitting light at different angles and wavelengths, the panel promotes alertness or induces sleepiness. Unlike current systems, the Circadian Light Panel automatically adjusts light according to the astronaut’s planned sleep schedule.
By simulating intense sunrises, varied daylight and calming sunsets using different hues, the Circadian Light effectively regulates astronauts’ circadian rhythms, enabling focus during the day and restful sleep at night. It also compensates for the monotonous space environment by providing custom light each day, mimicking the natural lighting changes on Earth.
Successful implementation of the Circadian Light on the ISS will not only enhance astronauts sleep but also contribute to future advancements. SAGA aims to utilise the data collected to develop a device for use on Earth, particularly in polar regions and densely populated cities where irregular natural light and circadian desynchrony are common.
In conclusion, SAGA’s Circadian Light offers a groundbreaking solution to the sleep challenges faced by astronauts in space. By prioritising healthy sleep patterns, they empower astronauts to perform at their best in the demanding environment of space exploration. Moreover, this innovation has the potential to benefit future human settlements beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
Article Courtesy of ESA COMMERCIALISATION GATEWAY