Healthy, fit astronauts make up the vast majority of space travelers to date. But as commercial space travel zooms closer to reality, the next generation of space travelers — namely, tourists — may not be so fit. “Even people with health issues can safely fly in space. It’s just a matter of understanding and controlling their medical conditions,” said Dr. James M. Vanderploeg, associate professor of aerospace medicine in the UTMB Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health. That is part of the research UTMB experts and others are conducting to study health and safety issues for flight crews and passengers on commercial space vehicles. “The next decades of the 21st century will see an extraordinary expansion of commercial space business and utilization,” Vanderploeg said. “Tourism, scientific experimentation and services for human exploration will all depend heavily on the Federal Aviation Administration’s ability to set policies and guidelines that are well informed and fair.” Vanderploeg, who serves as Virgin Galactic’s chief medical officer, and UTMB physician Dr. Richard Jennings, medical director for Space Adventures, will collaborate with scientists at the Johnson Space Center and Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering Group to conduct research projects for the FAA’s Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation. UTMB, along with research partners Stanford University and the University of Colorado at Boulder, will share $1 million per year in base funding from the FAA over the next five years.