On a recent episode of the fantastic podcast The Sound of Young America, Mary Roach – author of the new book Packing For Mars - reveals a variety of fascinating anecdotes about life in the great unknown of outer space and the politics, planning and minutia involved in getting and surviving there.
Among the most interesting topics Roach discusses is a research center maintained by NASA in order to study the effects of human atrophy and muscle loss due to the weightlessness of space. Here's a portion of what she shares:
The Bedrest Facility is what it’s called. This is a place where NASA pays people to lie in bed for months at a time – lounging around in their pajamas, watching television, playing video games, surfing the net. The catch is that you can’t even sit up. You have to lie down, and also you’re slighty tilted downward so you get that same fluid shift. So, your nose is a little stuffed up and it’s uncomfortable for the first couple weeks until you adjust. And the real downer is that a bedpan is involved. You’re not getting up for anything.
Other than that, if you’re a video game person, or you have a novel you want to finish – some people just love this. It’s a chance to just be forced to do one thing.
The reality when I went there and I interviewed people is that it is sort of like a modern day debtor’s prison. It’s people who say “Ok, I’ve got no money and I’m in debt. If I go and spend 3 months stuck in there, I can’t spend any more money, and I’ll come out and I’ll have $17,000. I’ll get out of debt, I’ll buy a coin-operated Laundromat and I’ll be good.
More information about the equally attractive and awful research center is available on NASA's website.