Receive the Mach newsletter.
To Jaclyn Jeffrey-Wilensky
Imagine you lie in bed for weeks, eating and sleeping without getting up, and being generously paid for your efforts.
What sounds like a dream job to some is the creation of a new experiment, conducted by NASA and the European Space Agency. Launched on Monday in Cologne (Germany), the study aims to assess the health effects of long-haul flights by restricting participants' movements for two months.
Agbresa (Artificial Gravity Bed Rest ̵
The study "offers space explorers across Europe and the US the opportunity to work together and acquire as much scientific knowledge about human physiology as possible," said Hansjörg Dittus, board member of the German Aerospace Center a statement.
The study will be carried out in the "envihab" facility of the Center (from "Environment" and "Habitat") in Cologne, where participants – 12 men and 12 women – will spend 60 consecutive days in bed the entire 89 -Day study, which includes extra time for preparation and recovery. For their time they receive 16,500 euros (about 19,000 US dollars).
More than half a century of human spaceflight has shown that microgravity of space can make drastic and potentially dangerous changes to the human body. Without the gravity of the earth, the body fluids can be torn down. Body fluids migrate up to collect in the chest and head, and bones and muscles disappear.
Lying in bed for extended periods of time may result in similar changes, so that study participants do just about everything: Envihab beds for the duration of the study.
But lying in bed is not exactly a walk in the park. The participants' beds are tilted slightly down to promote the upper body fluids. To mimic the effects of weightlessness on muscles, bones and tendons, participants need to minimize any movement. This means that there is always at least one shoulder on the mattress.
Some of the men and women lying in bed will endure daily sessions in a "human centrifuge" that turns like a carousel to create forces that simulate gravity. If they do not turn to science, they undergo cognitive function tests, blood draws and muscle biopsies.
If all of this sounds good to you, you're in luck. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) says the slots for the second phase of the experiment, which begins in September, are still open.