A new project offers to pay volunteers nearly Rs 13 lakh to stay in bed for 60 days to help scientists study how weightlessness affects the human body, said the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
Effective countermeasures against muscle and bone atrophy must be developed if astronauts are to live for long periods of time in space or on the Moon and Mars.
DLR, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, has launched the Artificial Gravity Bed Rest Study (AGBRESA).
The study will investigate the use of artificial gravity as a possible means of preventing the negative effects of weightlessness on the human body, DLR said in a statement.
During the three-month study, two-thirds of the test participants will be “rotated” each day while lying in the DLR short-arm centrifuge at the envihab aerospace medical research facility.
According to a report on CNN, study participants will receive a payment of 16,500 euros or nearly Rs 13 lakh.
“Manned spaceflight will continue to be important in the future for conducting microgravity experiments, but we must make it as safe as possible for astronauts,” said Hansjorg Dittus, member of the DLR Executive Board for Space Research and Technology.
“This study of bed rest by DLR, NASA and ESA offers space researchers across Europe and the US the opportunity to work together and collectively acquire the greatest possible scientific knowledge about human physiology,” said Dittus.
The 12 women and 12 men volunteers will spend 60 days in the beds, according to DLR.
They will stay there for 89 days, including the pre-testing and recovery phases. All experiments, meals and leisure activities will be carried out during the bed rest phase.
Participants will be restricted in their movements, thereby reducing stress on the muscles, tendons, and skeletal system.
The beds are sloped down towards the end of the head by six degrees. This will simulate the displacement of bodily fluids experienced by astronauts in a microgravity environment.
“Both effects are similar to what astronauts experience in space,” said Leticia Vega, Associate Principal Scientist for International Collaborations for NASA’s Human Research Program.
“Although the effects of weightlessness are primarily investigated on the International Space Station, analogs like: envihab are useful when studying certain research topics under controlled conditions on Earth. These findings will later be validated on the ISS, “Vega said.
“AGBRESA allows us to tackle the problem of muscular atrophy caused by weightlessness. But other stresses such as cosmic radiation, isolation, space restrictions and other issues are also on our research agenda, ”said Jennifer Ngo-Anh, team leader in Human and Robotics Exploration at ESA.
Human physiological research in weightlessness or under simulated conditions is important not only for astronauts to maintain their health and performance in space, but also for people on Earth.
Therefore, space medicine also encompasses health research for terrestrial applications, in all areas of prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
“In a world first, we will use the centrifuge to test whether, during a long-term study of bed rest, artificial gravity can be used to prevent or counteract the physiological changes experienced in a weightless environment,” said Jens Jordan, Director of the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine.
A large number of experiments will be conducted for this purpose, among other things, on cardiovascular function, balance and muscle strength, accompanied by cognitive tests and invasive examinations, such as muscle tissue biopsies, microdialysis, measurement of electrical muscle activity and taking blood samples on a regular basis.