Big Pic: Pillownauts Rest For Science

ESA volunteers in France spent the last 21 days lying in bed with their feet up.

French Pillownauts Bedresting For ESA

CNES-E. Grimault, 2013

Ah, the things we do for the sake of scientific inquiry. These volunteers for the European Space Agency just got out of bed for the first time in 21 days. To examine the effects of spaceflight on astronauts' bodies, the "pillownauts" laid at a 6 degree angle with their feet up in a medical facility in Toulouse, France while scientists poked and prodded them for three weeks.

No bathrooms, no showers, no getting up for a quick stretch. The paid volunteers were subjected to a strict high-protein, high-salt diet and an exercise routine "that involves pushing the volunteers down onto vibrating plates while doing upside-down squats," according to ESA. Researchers from the University of Bonne hypothesized that this diet and exercise routine might lessen the bone and muscle loss associated with long-term missions in microgravity. The crazy sci-fi headgear they're wearing is designed to measure how much oxygen each person breathes in and how much carbon dioxide comes out, as a way to study the links between diet, breathing and energy consumption.