NASA is continuing preparations for long-term space travel.
by Nicole Halseth
According to their official website, NASA is currently advertising positions in a bed-rest study paying $18, 000 USD ($18, 509 CAD) for a person to stay in bed for 70 days at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The successful applicant would be able to move around in bed, send texts, watch television, work, and even exercise on special equipment, so long as they stay in bed to do it. NASA has even devised a way for the participant to shower and go to the bathroom without leaving the bed.
During this time, the study participant will be subjected to 16 hours of daylight and 8 hours of night, as well as constant monitoring of biological processes and overall health. The purpose of this experiment is to test the effects of microgravity on the human body, and to measure the effects of weightlessness during space-flight on astronauts’ bodies. The bed is tilted so as to imitate the effects of microgravity on the body.
The study will be preceded by a period of 13-21 days where the participant will be able to move about the facility freely, and it will be followed by a 14 day recovery period where the participants will again be allowed to move about freely. Whether or not the $18, 509 is worth the potential long-term health effects of a 70-day bed stay is up to the applicant, but the study remains open. Applicants who wish to participate in the study must be physically and mentally able to deal with 70 days in bed, so they must pass both a psychological evaluation and a physical screening. This research has the potential to benefit many on long-term space treks in the future. One of these treks may be the proposed upcoming ‘mission to Mars’.
This ‘mission to Mars,’ aptly called the Mars One mission, began preparations in 2011 and was launched in New York in April. Run by the Dutch Mars Project, the Mars One mission aims to establish a permanent colony on Mars by 2023. Though there is no guarantee that applicants will be able to return to Earth after departure, there have nonetheless been a rush of volunteers. These volunteers include people from all over the world. The first round of applications was closed early in September. According to an article on the BBC website, out of 202,586 total applicants 24% are from the United States, 10% are from India, and 6% are from China.
Over the next two years, a committee will narrow this applicant pool down to around 40 people who will spend seven years of full-time training for the journey. These colonists will face numerous hardships, such as the potential for radiation poisoning, and other known and unknown complications. Despite the hazards, the pull of Mars and outer space seems to be worth the risk for thousands around the world.
It is for this reason that research such as the NASA ‘bed-rest study’ is so crucial. It will be increasingly important to predict and prepare for complications in long-term space travel as the Mars mission comes closer to fruition.
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