NASA is calling for test subjects in an experiment that could pave the way to sending humans to Mars or beyond. It's called the bed-rest study, and it is as extreme as it sounds.
If chosen, participants will have to lay on a bed for 70 days, with their feet elevated slightly higher than their heads. This simulates the long-term effects of microgravity on the human body. The researchers will be able to see how bone density, muscle atrophy, and other bodily factors change as people stay off their feet for months at a time, just like they would on an interplanetary mission. But don't worry, you can go about your normal daily routine, just as long as it is confined to the bed — there's a special shower, and you can use consumer electronics (Netflix must have enough decent content for 70 days of constant streaming, right?) Some subjects will even get to use in-bed exercise equipment.
Participants get $18,000 for their time.
So what does it take to endure such hard-core rest? Actually, a lot. Subjects need to be in very good physical condition and undergo psychological evaluation. The application states that participants must pass a modified Air Force Class III medical standard. The senior scientist on the study told Forbes, "We want people who have the physical and psychological characteristics of an astronaut," albeit a bedridden one.
The insights to be gained here can be crucial for the future of spaceflight. Currently, researchers suggest that a 10-month trip to Mars would cause an astronaut to lose 40 percent of his or her muscle mass. "On a long voyage," Space.com reports, "a healthy 30- to 50-year-old astronaut could end up with the strength of an 80-year-old." Something that would be a hindrance when it comes to actually landing on the planet.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.