Do you want to make $17,000 in two months? Do you want to make that money while never leaving the comfort of a bed? A new NASA study, slated to start in the fall of 2018, will pay volunteers to continuously lay in bed for 60 days, all in the name of space exploration.
The goal of this 60-day study is to learn how microgravity (the weightlessness astronauts experience in space) affects the human body. Humans are used to dealing with gravity. Whether we realize it or not, standing, walking, sitting upright, and just existing on Earth while gravity keeps us grounded requires a lot of muscle work. Studies have shown that during long space flights, lack of gravity severely impacts the human body. One study found that in just two weeks in space, muscle mass decreases by 20 percent. Over the course of a month, muscle strength can decrease by 50 percent and astronauts can lose 1-2 percent of bone density. Also, without gravity pulling blood down to the legs, fluids can flow upward and into the astronaut’s head in what NASA calls, “puffy head, bird leg” syndrome.
To study these effects, NASA conducts bed rest studies. In previous studies the bed resting has taken place at specialized labs in the United States. The next study will take place at :envihab, a space research facility in Cologne, Germany. The rules are simple: volunteers must lay in bed for 60 days straight while tilted at a 6-degree head-down angle with at least one shoulder touching the bed at all times. It’s difficult to study long-term weightlessness on Earth, but minimizing muscle work and lying at a slight decline (where fluids flow toward the head) help mimic a loss of gravity. Participants are provided with a laptop and television, their food is delivered to them, and they can even have visits from their friends and family.
Sounds amazing, right? Well, not so fast.
Imagine your daily routine in the morning. Now imagine trying to do that while laying down and keeping one shoulder on your bed. For 60 days you would need to eat, shower, get dressed, go to the bathroom, and exercise all while in bed. On top of that, participants are constantly poked and prodded while NASA collects data throughout the process. Researchers draw blood, insert IVs, perform MRI and X-ray scans, test out different forms of horizontal exercising, and monitor the participants 24/7.
In past studies, participants claim that once the novelty and excitement wears off, boredom quickly sets in. The recovery time is also grueling as it takes about two weeks of rehabilitation before participants are able to function normally after being off their feet for 60 days.
Though making money while laying in bed sounds like the couch potato’s paradise, it’s not quite that simple. However, if you have months to kill, want to make fast money, or just want to do your part to support the space program, a bed rest study might be just for you.