Would You Lie in Bed for 2 Months for Human Space Exploration? These 12 People Will
It won’t exactly be restful.
If you want to experience the less glamorous side of space travel, try laying in bed for two months straight. Yes, seriously — a trip to space has very similar effects on your body to being bedridden.
Weakened bones, loss of muscle mass, and changes in blood flow are common when someone spends a prolonged period of time lying down. Such is the same when an astronaut lives in zero gravity. That’s why researchers use bed rest tests on Earth to better understand how spending time in space affects astronauts.
Most recently, the European Space Agency announced a new experiment where 12 people will lie horizontally for 60 days. But they won’t exactly be resting. Participants will complete frequent exercise tests and be constantly monitored by experts.
The commitment to staying in bed means that participants will literally never get up, even to go to the bathroom or bathe. Their heads will be slightly reclined at a six-degree angle to mimic the lack of gravity that astronauts constantly experience off Earth.
But to counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, participants will try cycling while lying down to get their blood flowing. The ESA notes that this will be the first bed rest test in Europe where researchers will determine if cycling can help counteract the negative effects of zero gravity.
“We encourage volunteers to reach their maximum effort on the bike, and then compare the impact with those who are not biking at all,” said Rebecca Billette, the head of clinical research at the French Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology (MEDES), in a statement.
Some will cycle while being spun around in a centrifuge to create artificial gravity. If spinning while cycling has a greater impact on preserving physiological health, then astronauts might use a similar setup on space missions in the future.
Right now, astronauts already stick to a strict training regimen to stay in shape. In 2021, astronaut Shannon Walker wrote in a NASA post about sticking to her 2.5-hour workout every day on the International Space Station. She alternated between a treadmill with a harness, a stationary bike with foot clips, and a resistance machine in place of weights.
But there could be even better ways to keep astronauts fit in space that haven’t been discovered yet — especially with upcoming missions seeking to push humans further and further from home.