NASA and ESA test effects of artificial gravity for astronaut health

NASA and the ESA have teamed up to conduct studies looking at the value of artificial gravity for the health of astronauts. The study starts with test subjects in Germany that will be confined to a bed for 60 days starting on March 25. The research is jointly funded between the two space agencies.The research is conducted at the Germans Aerospace Center's (DLR) facility called :envihab. The long term bed-rest study is the first of its kind to be conducted in partnership with NASA and the ESA. The project is also the first of its kind to use the DLR's short-arm centrifuge as a way to recreate gravity for participants.

The challenge for astronauts in long term space missions is that without gravity to pull on their bodies, their muscle and bone starts to waste away. For astronauts living long term on the ISS, they have to exercise 2.5 hours per day and eat a strict diet to maintain health. Scientists think that adding a dose of artificial gravity could help mitigate some of the effects of microgravity on health.

That additional simulated gravity could be the key to astronaut health on long term space missions. The study has eight men and four women participating that will lay in bed for 60 days along with another 29 days of acclimation and recovery.

For the entire study period, the participants will be kept in beds with the head tilted to 6-degrees below horizontal, and one of their shoulders has to touch the mattress at all times. Once per day the participants will lay in the short-arm centrifuge and will be spun to encourage blood flow back towards their feet and allow scientists to gather data about their health.