I went on a diet again in the name of science. My previous diets for SOLO and Pro K experiments compared astronaut bone loss with osteoporosis on Earth. This diet for the ENERGY experiment looks at the energy expenditure of astronauts during a long spaceflight. ENERGY is a complicated experiment. Just as with all physiology experiments, measurements are conducted before, during and after flight. This is the only way to record the differences between Earth and microgravity.
The space-part of this experiment lasts 11 days. I eat space-food from a special package and register everything with bar codes and on written forms so scientists know exactly what I have eaten. It is a lot of work. In addition I have to drink water with deuterium isotopes and regularly collect water and urine samples. The isotopes allow scientists to examine how my energy levels change over 11 days.
I wear a mask that measures the amount of oxygen I absorb for 20 to 50 minutes at a time. I wear the mask in the European Columbus module at the Human Research Facility (HRF). I am not allowed to move for certain periods of time during the measurements. Fortunately I am allowed to watch television, so I watched Star Trek and Blade Runner. All my movements are recorded during the 11-day experiment using an ‘activity monitor’ placed on my upper arm.
Trip to Mars
Scientists working on the ENERGY-experiment want to know how to feed people on missions such as to the planet Mars. Imagine a Mars explorer’s energy levels getting low, it would have great consequences for the mission. On the other hand we do not want to send too much food, as space launches are very costly. By conducting this experiment I am making a small contribution to future voyages to Mars. That is a nice thought…