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'Terrestrial astronauts' for 60 days

  • 2015/10/19

For the next few weeks, German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) :envihab research facility will be home to 12 men in good health, aged between 20 and 45 years. The men are test subjects for a long-term bedrest study

Foto: DLR

  – they will be confined to bedrest for two months with two weeks of experimental investigations and tests. Their beds will be tilted at an angle of six degrees below the horizontal, so that their bodily fluids shift towards the upper body; the bones and muscles in their lower part of their bodies will lose strength as a result of the lack of movement. “In this way we simulate the effects of microgravity on the human body,” says Edwin Mulder, leader of the study and a scientist at the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine, about the study, which is being carried out by DLR on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA). “Our volunteers are, so to speak, terrestrial astronauts.” Half of the test subjects will undergo reactive jump training several times a week, which involves lying on a specially positioned training device. “We want to see whether this very intensive training can be an effective countermeasure to the deterioration of the bones and muscles.

Bone loss tests and the sense of equilibrium

 Currently,astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) have to exercise for over two hours a day to minimise the negative effects of microgravity on their bodies. The intention of the study at DLR is to investigate, among other things, whether other exercises could be more suitable as countermeasures. Therefore, the test subjects in the group will be training five or six times per week primarily by making small, powerful jumps in a horizontal position – ‘reactive jumps’. “A short course of training with strong muscular focus, there has never been anything of this kind in space before,” explains Mulder. The scientists involved are carrying out approximately 90 experiments: in addition to studying the effects of inactivity on bones and muscles during the two months spent in bed, they are also investigating changes to the cardiovascular system, sense of balance, the eyes, thermo-regulation, as well as the autonomic nervous system. The test subjects will undergo regular examinations and tests.

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