The ESA has announced it’s beginning a study this week that will involve an all-female crew of 20 women. The women will lay in a waterbed for five days in a dry immersion study aiming to re-create the effects of spaceflight on the human body. Study participants lay in a container similar to a bathtub that is covered in a waterproof fabric.
The waterproof fabric suspends them evenly in the water and keeps them dry. The setup of the experiment creates what the researchers call “supportlessness” which is described as being similar to what astronauts feel when working aboard the ISS. The experiment marks the second time a dry immersion campaign is being conducted using only female participants.
The experiment is part of a study the ESA calls Vivaldi meant to address the gender gap in science data. Volunteers have limited motion and are put in a monotonous environment. They will also be subjected to changes in body fluids mobility and will endure changes in the perception of their body.
Study researchers believe the results have the potential to investigate negative aspects of spaceflight and will help share data on movement disorders for immobilized and elderly people on Earth. During the study, the volunteers spend almost 4 hours a day in the immersion tank, with movements limited as much as possible.
Each day at 7 AM, participants have urine and blood samples drawn. Every activity study participants perform, from leisure to hygiene, is performed within the constraints of the immersion tank. Participants are allowed a small pillow during meals to make eating easier. Any transfers to the shower or other experiments outside the tank require the participants to be on their back with their head tilted down six degrees to minimize any fluid shifting.