The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is looking for volunteers to stay in bed for a little over two months as part of research on how exercise can help astronauts working in zero-gravity conditions. Scientists have noticed that astronauts in that kind of environment lose muscle, cardio, and bone function, and researchers hope this experiment will reveal what can best remedy that and help astronauts fully recuperate after being in space for prolonged periods of time.
For the cool sum of $18,000, volunteers agree to stay in bed for 70 days, with their body tilted slightly backwards, their heads down and feet up, to simulate what it’s like sitting in a spacecraft. Volunteers will be required to stay in that position even to bathe and go to the bathroom – for that there is a plastic bed pan and a handheld showerhead.
Test subjects can read and use computers, as long as they don’t move around too much.
The lazy ten weeks will be followed by two weeks of “reconditioning activities” – squatting, cycling, and walking while still lying down – to see how the body adapts to getting back to a normal level of activity.
"Being able to test new ideas on Earth saves invaluable flight time," Joe Neigut, Flight Analog Project Manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston told CBS News. "What the bed rest does to their physiology and how the exercise countermeasures benefits their physiology helps us better prepare and protect astronauts when they are in space. In fact how it affects the physiology can be applied to everyone on Earth."
Volunteers can’t come in to the program as flabby couch potatoes, though; they are required to be as close to an astronaut’s level of physical fitness as possible.
The research will take place at NASA’s Flight Analogs Research Unit (FARU) at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas.