Monday, June 24, 2013

Pillownauts Across The Pond


Vladyslav Atavin is back!  Last year, in his blog, Astronaut of the Pillow, Vlad was kind enough to share his experiences while participating in the European Space Agency Flight Simulations. Their French, Irish, Austrian, German and Italian scientists came together to conduct tests similar to those I underwent at NASA.

European Space Agency Pillownauts
Oh, the things we do for science!

Last December, Vlad wrote about the first phase of their experiments in French.  In April, he completed phase two, and wrote about all his medical tests in English. The third phase, set for autumn of 2013, will be recorded in Russian.  Bedrest sure is turning into an international endeavour!

There are 12 people in their ongoing study: 10 Frenchmen, 1 Spaniard and 1 Russian.

The entire program is very ambitious in its size and simultaneous scope:
Four pillownauts will spend 21 days in bed while engaging in recumbent weight-training and a vibrating exercise contraption. Another foursome will engage in the same, but add whey protein to their diets to see if there is any difference in muscle building. A final four will spend the same amount of time in bed, but lacking any of these attempts at "countermeasures".  Throughout the program, they will undergo various tests and experiments.

2011: the year the term PILLOWNAUT crossed the pond

These studies, with Mars in mind as a destination, are designed to find countermeasures to keep astronauts and cosmonauts healthier on long-duration missions.  Vlad's amazing journal includes rich details about the program phases, photographs of the study facility, descriptions of all his requirements and protocols, medical tests, and how the subjects spend their leisure time.

Many protocols are identical to those used at NASA: -6 degree tilt, food regimen, calculated fluid intake, blood tests and urinalysis, plasma volume measurements, DEXA bone scans, and balance tests; and also minor details, such as having to shave certain body areas to accommodate electrodes, and having massages to prevent thrombosis. 

Poor Vlad had to shave his hand, wrist, and leg for various tests, including multiple biopsies. So dedicated! He still looks great, in spite of it all! Rehab and exercise after bedrest is no easy matter, but he met all the challenges...

Reading his daily updates brought back so many memories of my own experiences with the many tests: Posturography, Isometric muscle activities and of course, the almighty Tilt Tests.  We did so many of the same things!  With slight differences in style and equipment. It's been such fun to compare my logs to his in terms of his work in Toulouse, France -- and my work in Galveston, Texas.

Honestly though, he does something a LOT that I never did in any of my Flight Simulation programs: he constantly gets folks to photograph him shirtless. Ladies, enjoy!

If you think you might be interested in participating in such paid studies, they tend to be very lucrative for healthy volunteers -- and now they are going on across three continents!  I used to get many international questions, and always had to break it to people that NASA only takes US citizens. But the Russian and European space agencies will now be conducting them too.

Keep your eyes peeled for application appeals -- and of course, whenever I hear of a new study that is recruiting, you will see it here on my blog!