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Broadcast 1926 (Special Edition)Listen to the show!
Aired on January 8th, 2013
Guest: Heather Archuletta
Guest: Heather Archuletta. Topics: NASA bed rest and simulation studies. Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. We welcomed Heather Archuletta to the program to discuss her first hand experiences with three NASA bed rest studies plus her recruitment work for new NASA study applicants. Heather is known as the Pillow Astronaut. Check out her website at and her blog at Our discussion was divided into two segments but this summary will not reflect segments since many of the same themes and topics overlapped the two segments. I believe this to be a very informative and a very entertaining Space Show program offering a comprehensive and insiders view of a subject we have not covered in any detail on any of our programs in our broadcasting history. We started out with Heather explaining the bed rest simulation studies, the different kinds of studies, and the basic qualifications to participate in a study. We talked about studies ranging from 24 days to 100 days. Heather was terrific about explaining the protocols to us, what each day was like, what the food was like, the ongoing medical testing, the helpers that did practically everything for the participants, plus the type of recreation they had given they all had to remain in their beds in the position required by the specific study. We talked extensively about the recreation from reading to movies, to being able to get fresh air outdoors, to using computers, webcams, and phones. Heather also explained the personal and privacy issues all the participants had to comply with and experience. If you embarrass easy, these studies are likely not for you. Diet was a big part of the study and our guest explained how tightly controlled the diet was and how it was made to order for each participant. In response to questions about the application and process, we learned about the medical and psychological screening, bone scans, etc. There was also outreach to family, friends, and significant others as there were strict rules about visiting and of course applicants did not need opposition by those in their lives. The goal of these studies, as you will hear, was to work toward developing counter measures for the effects of microgravity on bones. Physical intervention techniques such as exercise were tested as well as chemical mitigation techniques depending on the nature of any given study. Several listeners asked why the participants chose to do this. One listener asked how Heather talked with the general public to get them to see that spaceflight was worthwhile. Don't miss this discussion, its a good one. Making a difference and helping to pave the way for long duration human spaceflight were important reasons given by the participants for enduring the study constraints and protocols. Heather went over the basic medical and physical requirements for being a participant and she talked about her getting others interested in the studies given her own experience with three studies. She uses social media for outreach and also various conferences and speaking engagements. Heather also told us about the pictures on her blog, including pictures of her doing the studies in her bed. Scroll down on her blog for more information and the pictures. Also, there are journals on the blog regarding the day to day activity in the study. We learned that reading was a favorite activity as was working on laptops. When Heather was asked about pets coming to visit them with family members when visiting was possible, we learned that some of the participants kept fish with them in their rooms but no dogs, cats, or birds. Later in the discussion, she talked about the use of smart pills in some of the studies. She mentioned the founder of the bed rest studies, Dr. Duane Graveline and she told us how the bed rest and water immersion studies came about. Heather also said that the term "sleep study" was incorrect as the participants were not there to sleep! We learned that when the study ended, there was about a two week rehab period for the person to be able to function again. Sometimes the participants could not drive for up to three weeks after the study ended. Listeners asked Heather how accurate the simulations were compared to what the astronauts experienced on the ISS and the space shuttle. As you will hear, these studies appear to be excellent analog studies to actual spaceflight. Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog. You can email Heather through me or through her website and blog.

About our guest...

Heather Archuletta
Heather Archuletta was born and raised in San Francisco, and has degrees from Mills College in nearby Oakland, and the University of London, England. She loves to travel for both jobs and leisure, having lived in 7 US states and visited 47. After working in the tech industry for 17 years at large corporations like Oracle and Western Digital, she joined a NASA program for space flight simulations, which studies the long-term effects of weightlessness on the human body. These projects help Johnson Space Center scientists learn more about how to keep astronauts healthy in space for long duration flights, and she now works to find other qualified applicants for the programs. Her "Pillow Astronaut" blog (, which describes the flight sims in both personal and medical detail, has been featured in Wired, Popular Science and FOX news in America, as well as news outlets in Europe, India, Scandinavia and Russia.

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