NASA says it will pay $18,000 to anyone willing to take part in a three-month study that requires participants to stay in bed for 70 days under conditions that simulate the weightlessness of space flight.
After 70 days, the participants will be required to engage in a series of “reconditioning” exercises to test how effectively the human body responds to exercises designed to return it to normal shape after experiencing loss of cardiovascular and musculoskeletal tone following prolonged exposure to zero-gravity conditions in space flight.
The entire study period will last to about three months.
NASA has been conducting studies known as the “Best Rest Studies” since 2013.
Individuals selected to participate in the experiments will have to meet rigorous standards of physical fitness and will have to be either U.S. citizens or residents.
The research is being conducted to allow NASA scientists to gather useful data that will help to improve the health of astronauts subjected to prolonged weightlessness during space missions.
In the first stage of the experiment, volunteers will spend two to three weeks at a facility where they will be allowed freedom to move around and live normally.
During the second stage, volunteers will be moved to the NASA Flight Analog Research Unit in Houston, Texas, where they will spend 10 weeks lying on a bed with their bodies tilted backwards slightly, their heads down and feet up.
The purpose of the position is to simulate the body’s experience of weightlessness during space flight.
According to NASA, “Head down bed rest is a good way to mimic a person travelling in space without gravity.”
Participants’ movements will be severely restricted to ensure minimum physical activity. They will be required to wash themselves using a shower head and relieve themselves using a plastic bedpan while lying down on the bed.
Participants will be allowed to perform activities which do not involve the expenditure of significant amounts of energy, such as reading, watching movies, and using a computer while lying down on the bed.
“This study will show how much your body, tilted down slightly with head down and feet up, for 70 days, 24-hours a day, without getting out of bed, except for limited times for specific tests, is like an astronaut’s body during the weightlessness of space flight.”
During the period, NASA scientists will monitor participants closely for body changes under conditions similar to weightlessness during space flight.
But participants will be warned that they could suffer from back and neck pains as well as aching arms and joints due to remaining in the same horizontal position for prolonged periods of time.
After lying down on bed inactive for 70 days, participants will undergo 14 days of “reconditioning” exercises that will be performed in the horizontal position.
The purpose is to see how specially designed exercises help the body to return to normal shape after prolonged periods of exposure to conditions similar to the weightlessness or zero gravity of space.
Recently, Vice published a participant’s account of his experience participating in the studies in December, 2014.
Andrew Iwanicki gave a graphic account of his experience of returning to a vertical position for the first time after lying in bed with his head tilted back for 70 days.
“I stood up. Or at least I tried to.
“As soon as the bed was tilted to the vertical position, my legs felt heavier than ever before. My heart started to beat at 150 BPMs. My skin became itchy; I was covered in sweat. Blood rushed into my legs, expanding the veins… I felt like I was going to faint. I was fighting to remain standing from the start, and it only became more difficult. Around the eight-minute mark, my pulse dropped from 150 down to 70. My body was about to collapse.
“After spending 70 days tilted at a negative-six-degree angle… The standing test simulated the effects on astronauts’ cardiovascular systems during spacecraft reentry to Earth or Mars.”
[Images: via Truthia.com]