April 27, 2005

WISE volunteers reach halfway stage

The 12 WISE volunteers are now more than 30 days into the campaign that got underway on 21 March. Confined to bed with their head tilted below their feet to simulate the conditions of spaceflight, they have got into a well-established daily routine.
27 april 2005
Daily shower. Credits : ESA - photo Specht
Daily shower. Credits : ESA - photo Specht

To mark this milestone, Claudie Haigneré, France’s Minister for European Affairs and herself a former ESA astronaut, recently paid them a visit.

No time to rest

When you’re lying in bed at an angle of–6° below horizontal, all activities obviously take up a lot of time. Halfway through the experiment, they have nevertheless become part of the volunteers’ daily routine.
Tests are performed throughout the bedrest period. For instance, bone measurements are made regularly and a full metabolic check-up is done at the halfway point. So, the volunteers don’t get much time to themselves. When they do, it is to call family and friends, send e-mails or study. The most popular subjects are computer science and languages.

The first observation at this stage is that the amount of physical exercise prescribed for the training group was too intense. To prove the point, some slightly painful muscles and tendons obliged the experiment team to curtail certain sessions on the fly wheel and the LBNP. But since then, all the active volunteers seem to have adapted well and are following the training protocol without too much trouble.

Monotonous, unappetizing menus

The second observation is that, while their diet is fairly balanced, with lots of fruit and vegetables and only small amounts of meat, the volunteers have found meals monotonous and too copious.

But leaving food on the plate is not an option, because for comparison purposes the experiment conditions must be the same for the training and control groups. For this reason, an optimal quantity of food was defined for each volunteer. And to help them to digest their daily food ration, the number of snacks between meals was increased to allow them to eat less, but more frequently.
Credits : ESA - photo Specht
Credits : ESA - photo Specht

Next week, some recipes will be changed—although still using the same ingredients—to make the weekly menu a little more varied and appetizing.

Halfway through the adventure, morale is good overall and everyone is eagerly awaiting the end of the experiment and the first scientific results.

In a few days, 12 women will be getting to their feet for the first time in 2 months when they complete a long-term bedrest experiment.
In a few months’ time, 12 new volunteers will be taking their places for a second campaign lasting from September to December. The call has already gone out for applications from new recruits.
You can take part in this unique experiment and help to further research on the effects of weightlessness on female astronauts during long spaceflights.
If the idea of spending 100 days feeling what it’s like to be an astronaut appeals to you, find out more about the upcoming campaign and how to apply on the MEDES website.

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