Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Attack of the Space Studies!


Every now and then, the space studies explode in the press, breathing new life into the space flight simulations. It happened again this week, and have multiple Inbox Avalanches to show for it! Fresh off radio interviews in Dallas and New York, it's always gratifying to see the amazing scientists and doctors get some "rock star" attention for all their hard work in the Mars effort!

Exercise like you're on the space station!

The UK Daily Mail revived an old POPSCI.com interview from 2009, which sent shock waves through other outlets, whereupon a fantastic writer at Forbes, Maseena Ziegler, conducted four interviews to compile one of the best press pieces I've seen since I did my first program in 2008.

Going strong at 180,000 views and counting! The application server at NASA is probably bursting into flames right about now. According to metrics, we get as many hits from Texas alone now than we got from all 50 states 5 years ago.

Vlad and the leg-eating Bone Density Scan

Interestingly, just as the resurgence of excitement for NASA studies commenced, the European Space Agency began phase 3 of their bed rest study, in which many of the protocols are identical!  I truly hope one day, there will be a large, comprehensive studies across  many space agencies, with multiple nationalities -- as with the Mars500 project!

Over the past year, I've kept up with Vlad Atavin, one of the participants in the Toulouse study.  Like me, he blogged about his experience at his space agency, describing phase one in French, phase two in English, and phase three in Russian! Very talented!  And he includes a great photographic history of all his experiences.  Is he an artist with that razor, or what?

The things we do for science!
(You'd do it too, if you had electrodes on you thrice weekly)

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.

Vlad and I were featured in nearly identical articles about the bed rest studies on both continents, whereupon he began his writing journey in much the same way I had! Vlad's blog, entitled Astronaute sur l'oreiller: histoire du sujet "L", literally translates into English as Astronaut on the Pillow: The History of Subject L.  I have learned so much from him, not the least of which was the Russian word for "Bioimpedance."

As of this week, he is in head-down tilt mode for 21 days, and you can follow his adventures in detail, from his knitting (really, you must find ways to keep busy in there!) to the ESA menus, to medical tests. Sure brings back memories!  Let's hope they get some press across Europe as well, because every single one of these studies gets us one step closer to Mars!

Ah, seems like just yesterday for me...

Next up? New protocols in 2014 for NASA, with at least two new studies in the works. Of course, the design phases and approvals going through committees can take some time, but hopefully there will be some new volunteers, new equipment, and new tests in the pipeline soon. When I have the written summaries, you'll see them here, first!