A lucky 24 healthy young men will be selected for a once in a lifetime job opportunity: Getting paid to hang out in bed for two months straight. This dreamy job is being offered by the Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology in Toulouse, France to study the effects of weightlessness on the human body after long durations in space.
The requirements are nothing extraordinary: All you have to be is a male, between the ages of 20 and 24, with a body mass index between 22 and 27. You also can’t smoke or have allergies. This physique is relatively average for fit young men.
However, the job is far from a cakewalk. The candidates will have to lay flat on their back with their head at a slight decline. They will not be able to get up for anything and must bathe, eat, and go to the bathroom all while laying down. All of this is designed to help mimic a microgravity and zero-gravity environment in which human beings may be forced to spend an incredible amount of time during space travel to distant worlds.
“The volunteers must stay permanently lying down,” Arnaud Beck, the lead scientist on the experiment, told 20 Minutes. “In practice, it is still far from simple. The rule of the game is to keep at least one shoulder in contact with the bed or stretcher.”
After prolonged periods in space, astronauts come back to the ground with a range of physiological changes, including physical transformation of the cardiovascular system and signs of orthostatic hypotension, which affects balance and can cause vertigo. They also typically lose some muscle and bone mass, and can even experience a weakened immune system and trouble sleeping. There is even evidence of astronaut’s brains changing shape while in flight, which can affect vision.
On January 30, after NASA astronaut Scott Kelly concluded his “Year in Space” aboard the International Space Station, NASA began studying bodily changes compared to his twin brother, retired astronaut Mark Kelly. They found some fascinating differences. Scott’s telomeres — structures on the edges of chromosomes which shorten as a person gets older — bizarrely began to elongate. Scott’s gut bacteria was also altered in space and the two dominate bacterial were flipped. They also found a spike in his inflammatory markers. Though, all of these aberrations went back to pre-flight levels once Scott was back on Earth for a few weeks.
All in all, scientists still don’t know enough about what happens to our bodies in zero gravity. So, this study will hopefully mimic it to a point of understanding. The experiment will be in two parts: The first is to monitor and record these changes, and the second is to test out interventions to counteract them. Half the participants will be given a cocktail of medications like antioxidants and anti-inflammatory food supplements.
At the end of the study, the participants will spend two more weeks regaining their strength and walk home, kind of wobbly no doubt, with 16,000 Euros in their pocket. Not a bad salary for two months spent literally doing nothing.