Need a long rest with remuneration benefits? Mattress testing it’s not, nor really a dream job for couch potatoes (there’s lots of exercise involved) but if you meet the requirements and are willing to commit, you can get paid a sizable sum ($17,000 or equivalent to a rate of $5,000 a month Wired reports) for spending 90 days lying down on the job as a participant in NASA’s Flight Analog Research Unit (FARU) bed rest study program.
The Flight Analogs Project Team at the Johnson Space Center is conducting a series of studies that support the scientific needs of the space program. These studies develop methods to keep astronauts healthier and safer when they spend a long time in space without gravity. NASA calls these methods countermeasures and uses them to minimize the changes that occur to the body during space flight and enable the return of normal body functions once back on Earth.
NASA explains that of all the potential challenges crewmembers encounter in the space environment, microgravity has proven to be one of the most difficult to mimic in an experimental setting. Consequently, NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) researchers and engineers are studying bed rest as an experimental analog for space flight because extended exposure to a head-down tilt position can duplicate many of the effects of a low-gravity environment.
The Human Test Subject Facility personnel provide test subjects for research studies (http://www.bedreststudy.com) and coordinate the C-9 Reduced Gravity Flight Program. In addition to their scientific and operational responsibilities, select Branch scientists also act in the capacity of project scientists supporting the projects managed by the Biomedical Projects Branch.
As part of the Flight Analog Research Unit (FARU), NASA maintains a dedicated bed-rest study facility at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, equipped with beds that can be adjusted into positions that reproduce the effects of different gravity levels on the human body.
By manipulating these and other variables, the FARU team works to gather data and develop countermeasures that will be used to ease the effects of reduced gravity on future long-duration space missions. The bed rest studies encompass multiple areas of focus, including the musculoskeletal and psychological effects of long-term confinement to a reduced gravity environment, and healthy test subjects are needed to participate in these studies.
Currently the Test Subject Screening (TSS) at the Johnson Space Center is recruiting participants for the following studies:
The Exercise Study (CFT 70)
Countermeasure and Functional Testing Study – 70 Days, designed to minimize loss of muscle, bone and cardiovascular function through high intensity interval-type aerobic exercises on alternating days, with continuous aerobic exercise daily.
CFT 70 Countermeasure and Functional Testing in Head-Down Tilt Bed Rest
This 70-day study is to test the effectiveness of exercise on loss of muscle, bone and cardiovascular function.
NASA scientists are working to find ways to keep astronauts healthier and safer when they spend a long time in space. Head down bed rest is a good way to mimic a person traveling in space without gravity.
Head-down bed rest helps researchers study people on earth in a way that causes some of the changes the body goes through while traveling in space without gravity. This 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 astronauts body during the weightlessness of space flight. Watching you will help scientists learn how an astronauts body will change in weightlessness during space flight in the future.
Subjects in this study will be tested on set of seven functional tests (Functional Task Tests) and a corresponding set of physiological measures before and after 70 days of bed rest. Results of the study will help NASA scientists:
• Understand which mission tasks might be affected by changes in physiology during space flight,
• Understand how physiological changes map to a persons ability to do a particular task,
• Design countermeasures to prevent or minimize impairment to these physiological systems
The study will also evaluate the effectiveness of a new exercise program to maintain muscle size and strength, bone health, and cardiovascular function during 70 days of bed rest. The exercise program is called the countermeasure and functional testing (CFT) study.
Subjects who participate in the exercise program will receive exercise training during bed rest that will be conducted in the lying down position on specially designed exercise equipment. Aerobic exercise will use a treadmill and cycle. Resistance (weight lifting) exercise will use special weight machines. Subjects will participate in a three-week pre-training program, during which they will become familiar with the equipment and attend sessions to practice the exercises in the pre-bed rest phase.
Specific exercises and intensities are rotated so that each workout is different, with some days being heavier and some lighter. On resistance training days, subjects will do 30 minutes of continuous moderate intensity aerobic exercise. On alternate days, they also will do high intensity interval aerobic exercise. Interval aerobic exercise alternates with periods of exercise and periods of rest.
This chart provides an example of the aerobic and resistance exercise training schedule:
Persons who decide to participate in the study will be scheduled to spend about 97 or 105 days living in the bed rest facility of NASAs Flight Analogs Research Unit (FARU) at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. Exercising subjects will spend 105 days and non-exercising subjects will spend 97 days at the research unit. Scheduling will depend on the number of beds and the subject’s availability.
During the first 13 days for non-exercising subjects, or the first 21 days for exercising subjects, participants will be free to move around inside the bed rest facility and do normal activities.
Bed Rest Period
After the first 13 or 21 day period, subjects will spend 70 days lying in bed, with their body slightly tilted downward (head down, feet up).
During the final 14 days of the study, subjects will again be free to move about within the facility. Because of deconditioning that takes place during bed rest, they will slowly begin normal everyday activity, and will participate in the reconditioning activities that are arranged for you during this time.
During all phases of the study, subjects will take part in tests of their bone, muscle, heart and circulatory systems, and nervous systems, as well as their nutritional condition and your ability to fight off infections.
For a more complete description of testing, medication, exercise routine, diet, records disclosure policy, risks and other study details, call:
1-866 JSC-TEST (572-8378).
NASA says this research project has been reviewed by the Institutional Review Board (a committee which reviews medical research studies involving human subjects for safety and ethics) of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
A Q&A by Wired’s Alexis Madrigal with Ronita Cromwell, the senior research scientist heading the NASA bed rest project, can be found here:
You can find more information at:
Photos and graph courtesy NASA