Be a NASA Human Test Subject - You Might Just Earn $18,000!


Bronze Wordsmith
Apr 16, 2018

When it comes to space exploration, astronauts get all the glory. And rightfully, so. These brave people put their lives on the line for the advancement of human knowledge. But also instrumental to the success of the space program are the countless engineers, scientists, astrophysicists, and regular people…

Hold On. Did You Just Say Regular People?

Yup. Regular people like me and you. NASA needs test subjects for their medical test, which cover things like effects of changes in sleep patterns, and how bodies react to low or zero gravity.

Since these tests don’t require special job skills (unlike actual astronauts), a wide range of people can participate in them. And let’s be honest, an astronaut would most likely be busy taking part in high-level training sessions and other important tasks.

And being part of our country’s super-awesome space program isn’t even the best part. I learned you can actually get paid big money to participate in these tests!

The NASA Sleep Study

NASA does a lot of tests (more on that later) but probably their sleep study got more media coverage than usual. Given the fact that they paid people $18,000 to stay in bed for two months, it’s not surprising it drew so much attention.

It sounds awesome, but it had an important purpose: NASA researchers had to study the effect of being in a recumbent (that’s fancy science-speak for lying down) position for extended periods of time.

Also, when I say they were paid $18,000 to stay in bed, I meant they literally had to stay in bed for two months. So there’s a tradeoff. They wouldn’t be paying $18,000 for something that was easy to do. At least test subjects could watch movies or play games for the entire duration of the test.

Other NASA Studies

The NASA sleep study (at least the $18,000 one) is over, but there are still other tests you can participate in. And let’s be honest, would you lie in bed literally for 70 days for $18,000? (Fine, I’ll admit it - I would!)

Sleep patterns are just one area NASA tries to study. When you’re throwing astronauts up into orbit, you’ll want to have had studied as many variables as possible. Here’s what NASA’s official site has to say:

“Developing countermeasures for the effects of space flight often requires investigators to rely on human subjects to support data collection. Test Subject Screening (TSS) has the primary responsibility to provide qualified test subjects for ground-based research or microgravity studies. The TSS personnel recruit and maintain detailed tracking of test subject participation in all studies.”

What Happens During These Studies?

It varies from test to test, of course. But let’s go back to the sleep study. I already mentioned that participants stayed in bed for 70 days. During this test, the bed was tilted slightly so the participant’s feet were elevated. The tilting causes blood and other bodily fluids to move to the upper half the participant’s body. Researchers could then study the effects of zero gravity on a human’s cardiovascular system.

The prolonged period of inactivity also enabled scientists to study muscle atrophy. Muscle atrophy is the gradual degeneration of muscle fiber due to inactivity. Astronauts risk muscular atrophy because the body doesn’t have to work as hard in zero gravity.

The findings of the test would give scientists vital information on how to ensure astronauts stay strong and healthy during their missions in space.

You want to read up about NASA’s tests, their website has a section dedicated to the subject. (Link:

How do I Sign Up?

If this is something you’d like to try, follow the instructions in their Be a Human Test Subject! page (Link:

Since this is NASA we’re talking about, expect lots of tests and screenings. This may include:
  • Passing a physical test
  • Passing a background check
  • Providing complete tax information
Recruitment takes about six weeks. But after this period, you won’t necessarily be assigned to tests immediately. You become part of a pool of volunteers that the testing arm of NASA can select. When an appropriate test comes up, you will get called.

Being part of this pool means you will have to pass a yearly physical exam. I actually appreciate the fact that you need to do this. It means the tests are not harmful. Because if they were, chances are they wouldn’t ask for you to come back!

Earning Potential

Not all tests pay $18,000 dollars, of course; that’s the high end of the spectrum. The average test pays $10 an hour. It’s not super-high, but it’s not bad either. Overall, I think it’s a good rate for a fews days away from work.

But more complex or time-consuming tests pay more, of course. Take the sleep test, for example. You have to spend two months away from work and family. That’s a huge investment in time on your part. And you may not be doing much during the actual test, but it can be exhausting in its own right. That’s why NASA paid such a huge amount for that test.

I’ve read that other tests can also pay in the thousands of dollars. To increase your chances of getting chosen for those top-dollar tests, I suggest you keep your physical exams and paperwork up to date.

The Verdict

Becoming a NASA test subject is a legit way to make money! The money you’ll get from regular tests is just okay, but here’s hoping you become eligible for the more advanced tests. That’s where the big money is!

Every kid dreams of becoming an astronaut. While being a test volunteer isn’t exactly the same thing, you still get to play a vital part in our country’s space program. And that’s still pretty cool!

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn to share. Have you volunteered for any of NASA’s human tests? What tests did you take and how much did you earn?

Let’s hear your stories!
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