Microgravity experienced in space can affect the human body. Muscles and bones, for instance, become weaker without gravity to make the work hard.
Mitigating Effects Of Microgravity
Astronauts who work at the International Space Station need to engage in activities that could mitigate the effects of weightless. They currently exercise up to 2.5 hours per day and maintain a balanced diet to stay healthy.
Scientists, however, think there are more ways to help keep astronauts healthy and one of these could be the use of artificial gravity in longer-term space missions.
To see if this could potentially work, the European Space Agency and NASA are funding a study that will investigate how artificial gravity may help astronauts stay healthy in space.
Artificial Gravity Bed Rest Study
Eight male and four female participants will participate in experiments collectively called the Artificial Gravity Bed Rest Study, which will be carried out at the German Aerospace Center in Cologne, Germany.
The participants will lie in bed at an incline for 60 days starting March 25. There is no sitting up and every participant needs to keep at least one shoulder in contact with the mattress at all times.
The beds' head ends are tilted 6 degrees below the horizontal so blood flows away from the participants' legs. The participants will also be regularly spun up in a centrifuge to push blood back towards their extremities.
"As blood flows to their heads and muscle is lost from underuse, researchers will investigate changes and test techniques from diet to physical exercise," ESA said in a statement. "Artificial gravity is one of the techniques under the spotlight this time around and will see some of the participants sent spinning."
Addressing Issues Caused By Stressors In Space
During the course of the study, researchers will look at the cardiovascular function, metabolism, balance and muscle strength, as well as the cognitive performance of the participants.
ESA researcher Jennifer Ngo-Anh said that the findings of the study may have important implications in future missions to the moon and beyond.
She said the findings will help address issues of muscular atrophy caused by weightlessness and other stressors astronauts experience such as isolation, cosmic radiation, and spatial restrictions.