The ESA to Conduct Experiments of People Lying Down in Bed to Mimic the Effects of Spaceflight

A new program that tests the impacts of spaceflight has on the human body.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has now created a project that will pay volunteers £12,500 (about $16,200) to stay in a bed for two whole months. The project is meant to test the impacts of space travel on the human body, and it simulates elements of spaceflight by having people lying down in a bed for long periods with the body placed in a six-degree angle.

It includes two groups of people lying down in bed for 60 days and will be conducted by two teams of scientists from France and Slovenia. The study, however, does not imply only lying down; one shoulder has to touch the bed all the time, even when the subject is eating, washing or going to the toilet during the experiment.

Bedrest Experiments Will Help Advancing Spaceflight

Volunteers will be placed in a centrifuge to imitate the impacts of ‘artificial gravity’ on the human body when bound to a bed as well as exercising after the bedrest. ESA is searching for 48 volunteers, both men and women, to partake in the experiment. The participants will be separated into two four groups: two will go to Slovenia and two to France.

“We get many requests to be a volunteer for these studies, but they are no joke; lying in bed sounds fun, but the pleasure wears off very quickly,” said Jennifer Ngo-Anh. “We constantly salute the volunteers that sacrifice their daily lives for the benefit of human exploration.”

Various organizations and researchers are able to offer access to data from the experiment or have their own tests performed on volunteers. Finding methods to stay healthy in orbit is a main part of human spaceflight research, and the ‘bedrest’ experiments are part of that operation.

“The more test subjects, the better, but sending people into space is expensive and hard. The goal is to definitively test measures that reduce the unwanted effects of living in weightlessness,” said ESA science coordinator Angelique Van Ombergen. “We have a long history at ESA of conducting bedrest studies, and this round will put all our knowledge gained towards fine-tuning and working out the best techniques.”

Dry-Immersion Like on the ISS

The centers, three in total, located in France, Germany, and Slovenia, enable scientists to adjust environmental conditions, such as oxygen levels in the rooms. Testing participants in low oxygen levels, also known as hypoxia, is important for future space expeditions where the limited setting of spacecraft and space sites could offer less oxygen.

Volunteers will be placed in a centrifuge to imitate the impacts of ‘artificial gravity’ on the human body when bound to a bed as well as exercising after the bedrest. [Image: ESA]
In the centrifuge, participants will be placed in a way to recreate gravity towards their feet while they lay down to observe how artificial gravity could be utilized to offset a few of the changes in the human body while they stay in space.

The ESA is also collaborating with the Medes clinic in France to observe the effects of ‘dry-immersion’ baths, also known as floating beds, on the female body. Participants are emerged evenly in the tub, simulating the floating state astronauts in the International Space Station experience.

“We will collect data to better understand the dry immersion model and how the women react to assess these studies for more extensive investigations in the future,” said Ngo-Anh from the ESA Human Spaceflight research team.

The researchers are looking for 20 female test participants to spend five days at the Medes clinic in Toulouse, France, sometime this year.

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