As a teenager I wanted to be an astronaut. The adults rallied round, sent me to a careers consultant and attempted to disabuse me of such a foolish notion. I wasn’t impressed by their efforts, but for whatever reason this potential career choice wasn’t pursued. Doesn’t stop me from a certain amount of envy for those who have been able to follow that path, or from fantasies of living in a sci-fi universe where quick side trips to some nearby planet would be as routine as a drive to the supermarket is for me.
So, I was fascinated by this report which recently appeared at EurekAlert: Women rising to the challenge of weightlessness.
Following 60 days of ‘bedrest’ simulating the effects of weightlessness on the body, the first volunteers in the WISE (Women International Space Simulation for Exploration) study have been getting back on their feet.
They all speak of having had a wonderfully enriching experience both in scientific and human terms. … The volunteers in question are twelve women, drawn from seven European countries. Since March they have been confined to bed at the MEDES (French Institute of Space Medicine and Physiology) space clinic in Toulouse, in what is the longest female bedrest experiment ever conducted within the European Community.
For these two months, they have been confined to bed, lying at a 6° angle, their feet raised slightly above their heads. In such a position it is possible to induce in the body phenomena similar to those encountered by astronauts when subjected to weightlessness for long periods, such as a loss of muscle mass and capacity for effort followed by a reduction in bone mass.