Researchers in Toulouse, France, are studying the effects of space travel on the human body. And for this, they placed a group of 20 women in bathtub-shaped containers for five days, is what one reports. Press release of the European Space Agency (ESA).
While the containers were filled with water, they were also covered by a waterproof fabric, so the volunteers stayed dry and evenly suspended while lying in them, as if they had been lying on a giant waterbed.
In that state, they experienced a “lack of support”, something similar to what astronauts feel while floating on the International Space Station.
The researchers did this “dry dive” to replicate the weightlessness of space and thus understand what the lack of gravity generates for astronauts while they carry out their missions. In weightlessness, people’s bodies lose muscle and bone density, vision changes, and fluids move to the brain.
This study is to investigate the detrimental effects of space flight and find ways to stay healthy in orbit. However, it is also useful for investigating movement disorders suffered by immobilized and elderly patients on Earth.
The dry immersion study placed a woman inside the container, with the water covering her thorax. His legs and torso were completely immobilized, but his arms and head were free to move over the fabric.
The participants spent almost 24 hours a day in the tank and all activities, from those related to leisure to hygiene, were carried out within the limitations of the immersion. They were only allowed a small pillow during meals to facilitate feeding.
What they were allowed was to shower, although the baths were done outside the tank, with the person “lying on their back and with their head tilted six degrees down to minimize fluid changes,” the statement said.
The volunteers experienced changes in body fluids and mobility, as well as their perception of their own bodies.
This is the second time that a dry immersion campaign has been carried out with exclusively female participants, and it is the first time in Europe. ESA decided to launch the study, called Vivaldi, to correct the gender gap in scientific data.
“There is almost no knowledge about the physiological and psychological effects on women in this area of research. A women-only dry immersion study will add to previous men’s campaigns in Europe and Russia, ”says Angelique Van Ombergen, ESA’s life sciences discipline director.