Twenty four people are getting the chance to make an important contribution to space exploration while lying on their backs. As the Evening Standard reports, NASA and ESA (the European Space Agency) are paying volunteers 16,500 euros—more than $18,500—to stay in bed for two months in the name of science.
The study is a way for scientists at the American and European space agencies to test the effectiveness of artificial gravity on Earth. For 60 days, 24 volunteers will be instructed to eat their meals, go to the bathroom, and do everything else lying down. They can do anything they want with their months of free time, including reading, taking online classes, and binge-watching any shows they've been meaning to catch up on, as long as they can do it from bed.
All that down time is meant to simulate the effects of microgravity on astronauts. When people spend extended periods in space, their muscles deteriorate, their bones become less dense, and their blood flows differently throughout their bodies. Regular exercise is used to combat this, but scientists hope that artificial gravity can do even more to fight the side effects.
The subjects of the study will be positioned at a slight incline with their feet raised higher than their heads to reduce blood flow to the legs, recreating the same physical changes astronauts experience in space. The only time they will be encouraged to stand up is to visit a centrifuge in a laboratory. The spinning rig simulates gravity, pushing blood toward the volunteers' lower extremities. At the end of the study, the scientists will see if the simulator did anything to minimize the effects of lying in the same position for so long.
After the 60 days are up, the study participants won't be able to go home with their $18,500 immediately. Like real-life astronauts, they'll need to undergo a rehabilitation period before they're back to normal.
[h/t Evening Standard]