For $18,000, participants of NASA’s new bed rest study will lay in bed for 70 days. The test is meant to simulate space travel and will allow scientists to understand the effect that microgravity has on the human body when it undergoes atrophy during such a period. A greater understanding of this process will hopefully result in safer and healthier space travel.
NASA aims to “minimize the changes that occur to the body during space flight and enable the return of normal body functions once back on Earth” with the knowledge gleaned from a series of countermeasure and functional testing studies. This includes not only the sleep study (also known as CFT 70 Countermeasure and Functional Testing in Head-Down Tilt Bed Rest), but also a 14-day study on the effects and relationship of age, sodium intake and blood vessel compliance to the VIIP Syndrome. The latter (NaVC Effects of Age and Sodium Intake on Venous and Arterial Compliance and VIIP Syndrome in Bed Rest) is also meant to replicate traveling without gravity.
According to NASA, these flight simulation studies, specifically the 70-day 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.” Before and after the study, volunteers will be “tested on a set of seven functional tests (Functional Task Tests) and a corresponding set of physiological measures.” The study will include an ambulatory period (13 or 21 days depending on whether subject is exercising or non-exercising), a bed rest (70 days in bed with all the Netflix and phone time you could want) period and a recovery period (14 days of de-conditioning). In total the length of the study can range from 97 to 105 days, over the course of which participants will live at the bed rest facility of NASA’s Flight Analogs Research Unit (FARU) at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas.
The questionnaire for potential volunteers for the study asks applicants everything from their medical history to whether they live within 300 miles of Houston. Although they are looking “for a population that resembles the NASA astronaut population” anyone can apply.