Friday, August 24, 2012

NASA Bedrest Studies: Then And Now


Very special thanks to longtime supporter and reader, Joe Neigut, for bringing my attention to some great new videos on YouTube! I admit, I don't often "surf" that particular site unless I have a video to upload – and even then, I'm more likely to get stuck on Monty Python skits for hours ;)

Many moons ago, I featured some articles on space agency bedrest studies: one paid $100 per week in 1968; another in the same era recruited prison inmate volunteers, and both were considered early milestones in the attempt to understand effects of extended weightlessness on the human body.

Life Sciences at the Manned Spacecraft Center in 1973

This short clip shows bedrest and tilt tests, as part of a broader view into the physiological sciences that accompanied the post-Apollo and Skylab era of the space age. The entire program is available on another channel, and you can click here for Part 1 (13 minutes long) and click here for Part 2 (14 minutes long).

Current studies pay more than ten times the money now, at $1075 per week, and there are definitely no more prison volunteers allowed by NASA's modern ethics committees. Screening, of course, is also more rigorous, and psychological testing is also included. It takes a physically hardy and mentally sturdy person to withstand this particular sort of friendly quarantine, even if it looks like just "lying around".

Clip of modern NASA bedrest studies in 2011

Interestingly, even after 45 years worth of these studies, while the details have been altered in various ways via comparison control groups, the overall drill is the same: micro-gravity simulation to examine changes in bone production, muscle tissue, blood flow and plasma volume.

It's amazing to see how these studies have evolved over the years as we've tried to achieve greater accuracy and learned more about the body while trying different counter-measures.

We've come a long way!