Some brave people will soon lie down for science – and they will not stand up long.
On Monday (March 25), a 60-day bed rest study will begin in Cologne, funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. Eight male and four female volunteers are being placed in the beds of the German Aerospace Center (envihab) to help scientists better understand How does space travel affect the human body?, The scientists call the experiment the study of the artificial gravity bed, according to German space officers.
(Bed rest is a common research tool in the human spaceflight community, causing muscle atrophy and loss of bone density, as well as prolonged periods of weightlessness.)
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If you think this sounds like a dream concert, you may want to rethink. For starters, there is no sitting; Each volunteer must keep at least one shoulder in contact with the mattress at all times. The headboards of the beds are tilted 6 degrees below the horizontal, so that the blood flows away from the legs of the participants, said ESA representatives.
In addition, the poor are regularly dipped in a centrifuge and raised to displace the blood toward their extremities.
The centrifuge bit is an attempt to measure the real potential of artificial gravity – a long-lasting science-fiction trope – to combat the worst effects of weightlessness.
This will be the first long-term ESA bed rest study to be used: the envihab short-arm centrifuge and the first one, carried out in collaboration with NASA, told ESA representatives.
Researchers conduct a variety of experiments throughout the study. Among other things, they measure participants' cardiovascular and cognitive performance, balance and muscle strength. This data will help ESA, NASA and their partners to prepare for missions to the Moon, Mars and other space destinations.
"To enable these missions, various risks to the health of astronauts must be minimized," ESA team leader for research, Jennifer Ngo-Anh said in a statement, "This study allows us to address the problem of muscle atrophy caused by weightlessness, but also other stress factors such as cosmic rays, isolation and spatial limitations."
Mike Wall & # 39; s book on the search for the extraterrestrial life "Out there"(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate) is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall, Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook,