Of all the potential challenges crewmembers encounter in the space environment, microgravity has proven to be one of the most difficult to mimic in an experimental setting. HRP researchers and engineers are studying bed rest as an experimental analog for space flight because extended exposure to a head-down tilt position can duplicate many of the effects of a low-gravity environment.
As part of the Flight Analog Research Unit (FARU), NASA maintains a dedicated bed-rest study facility at the University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston, TX). The facility is equipped with beds that can be adjusted into positions that reproduce the effects of different gravity levels on the human body.
By manipulating these and other variables, the FARU team works to gather data and develop countermeasures that will be used to ease the effects of reduced gravity on future long-duration space missions. The bed rest studies encompass multiple areas of focus, including the musculoskeletal and psychological effects of long-term confinement to a reduced gravity environment.