Laying in Bed for 60 Days
If you’ve been looking for a way to get caught up on all the streaming shows you’ve been missing, you just may be the person that NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are looking for.
One of the challenges facing astronauts and future space-station- or moon-colonists is the long term effects of weightlessness on things like bone or muscle atrophy. As a consequence of our having evolved our muscle and skeletal systems to combat gravity, taking gravity away can lead to all kinds of problems for these systems.
“To make these missions possible, various risks to astronaut health must be minimised,” said Jennifer Ngo-Anh, the ESA team teader for research. “This study allows us to address the issue of muscular atrophy caused by weightlessness, but also other stressors such as cosmic radiation, isolation and spatial restrictions.”
When You Sleep In On Sundays You Can Say You’re In Training
As the ESA itself points out, it may sound like the easiest job in the world, but staying in bed for 60 days is designed to atrophy your bones and muscles so they can study ways to counteract these effects.
“Bedrest has long been used to mimic some of the changes our bodies experience in the weightlessness of space,” reads a statement from the ESA explaining this phase of the study. “Humans are made to live on Earth and without the constant pull of gravity it is common for muscles and bones to start wasting away.”
As such, when you’re finished with your 60-day stretch in a specially designed bed, you must also spend the next 29 days in “acclimatisation and recovery” to restore your body to a healthy bone and muscle density. In order to combat the bone and muscle atrophy caused by microgravity on the International Space Station, astronauts are required to exercise for more than two hours a day and eat a diet specifically designed to counteract this wasting process.
For study participants, 12 men and 12 women, they need to remain at the research facility for the duration of the study, kept in beds that are tilted six degrees below horizontal at the head end of the bed, and one of their shoulders must be touching the mattress at all times.
According to the ESA, “[a]s blood flows to
heads and muscle is lost from underuse, researchers will investigate changes and test techniques from diet to physical exercise. Artificial gravity is one of the techniques under the spotlight this time around and will see some of the participants sent spinning.”
“Once a day, a selection of the study’s participants will lie in DLR’s short-arm centrifuge. There they will be spun to encourage blood to flow back towards their feet and allow researchers to understand the potential of artificial gravity in combating the effects of weightlessness.”