The fake story of the week on facebook goes to “NASA Will Pay You 18000 Usd To Stay In Bed And Smoke Weed For 70 Straight Days“. Stoners all over the interwebs went crazy over it and would have joined by the millions if only they could find an apply button. Of course nobody could apply because it’s freaking fake. Dammit, people!
OK, now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s talk some real science because this headline is half true. NASA is actually conducting a series of experiments called the Bed Rest Studies were volunteers have to stay in bed and not walk for at least three months.
The purpose of the study is to research the effects of microgravity on the human body. By having subjects lie in bed for 70 days straight, the body should be subjected to muscle atrophy akin to that experienced by astronauts in space. The beds are tilted head-down at a six-degree angle. This tilt causes body fluids to shift to the upper part of the body and sets off cardiovascular events that are similar to what we see in a space flight.
“Being able to test new ideas on Earth saves invaluable flight time,” says Joe Neigut, Flight Analog project manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “What the bed rest does to their [test subjects] physiology and how the exercise countermeasures benefits their physiology helps us better prepare and protect astronauts when they are in space. In fact how it affects the physiology can be applied to everyone on earth.”
And yes, participants do actually get $18,000 for lying in bed — $1,200 per week for a total of 15 weeks. Oh, and another thing. “Couch potatoes is not an accurate description for what we are looking. Subjects need to be very healthy,” says NASA’s news chief, Kelly Humphries.
“We want to make sure we select people who are mentally ready to spend 70 days in bed. Not everyone is comfortable with that. Not every type of person can tolerate an extended time in bed,” says Dr Cromwell.
“Once they qualify physically and mentally, we do rigorous physical exercises to test muscle strength and aerobics capacity. We want people who have the physical and psychological characteristics of an astronaut. They should be able to do the kind of activities that astronauts do.”
The first runs of the project were made in 2013, and the last one in 2015. One participant documented his experience in an editorial for VICE, if you’re interesting to hear how it was.
“Beyond the pain, I learned that it was nearly impossible to perform everyday tasks while slanted at the negative six degree angle. Taking showers consists of dousing myself with a hand-held shower head, and it’s especially hard to clean my back, legs, and feet. Reading books is exhausting, since I have to hold my arms outstretched in lieu of lifting my head up. Using my laptop is equally strange while lying down. Every time I brush my teeth, I feel like I’m going to choke on the toothpaste. Then I have to spit into a cup, but it inevitably dribbles down my cheek and through my beard every damn time,” the authors wrote for VICE.
There’s no word yet if a new round of the experiment will be made by NASA, and neither have any results been shared.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true it usually isn’t.