AGBRESA – a terrestrial astronaut's diary
Today is 29 April. I was last outdoors enjoying the fresh air and my last rays of sunshine on 29 March. This means that I have now been here for a month, including 17 days of lying down.##markend##
So, as of today, the first third of the study is behind me and I will soon have completed one third of the lying down phase! Although all of us here are looking forward to the end of our bed-rest, I am already sure that we will all miss this adventure and will never forget it. When we leave, we will certainly miss our rooms and the way we have configured them so as to be able to reach everything we need from our beds, the ever helpful and funny staff, as well as the other test participants, of course. The transition to being able to move freely again and not having to ask for a spatula from the restaurant to scrape our plates clean is also bound to be unfamiliar to us at first, yet an unusually good feeling, of course. But there are still eight weeks to go until then.
Why am I taking part in this experiment?
I learned about a similar bed-rest study here in Cologne a few years ago. Unfortunately, the timing then did not fit with my university course. So, when my mother heard about the AGBRESA study on the radio, she wondered if it would be right for me. She knew that I am interested in experiences that test human boundaries and that I would see it as a ‘minor’ self-experiment. Nobody can ever take away the experience of being predominantly self-occupied for so long and spending eight weeks lying down, and it is also something that is hard to experience in the 'normal' world.
I was also attracted by the idea of being involved in a space research project, which I find really inspiring. The study and its results could be a major step towards crewed flights to Mars.
The experiments are even more varied than I imagined. They include everything from eye examinations, parkour runs prior to the beginning of bed-rest, muscle examinations, to 'flying lessons', in which we learn to dock a spacecraft with the International Space Station. Only astronauts, the test participants here in :envihab and some of the staff can claim to be able to do this.
We are quite proud of that.
How does it feel to lie down for such a long time?
I did not think that my body would cope so well with long periods of lying down. During the first few days, I had a slight backache, but from the fourth day onwards, I did not suffer any more aches and pains. If something does hurt a little, the physiotherapists massage the affected area. We enjoy an hour of physiotherapy every second day. During the entire time, I have not been bored. On the contrary, I feel that the days are passing much too quickly for me to do everything I have planned. I spend most of my free time between all the examinations and experiments reading, watching films and TV shows, learning another language, facetiming, listening to music, painting, chatting, looking for a job and writing my CV/applications. After this study, I will be starting my career and it is really good to relax and get away from the stress of everyday life, especially since I submitted my bachelor degree dissertation the day before coming here.
I am not too worried about the loss of muscle mass, by the way. I am looking forward to the rehabilitation during the last two weeks here and then going to the gym. I am already motivated to quickly regain my muscle strength.
Your terrestrial astronaut and test participant J :)