When a person reaches high altitudes, the body functions change in order to adapt to the changed environmental conditions. Lower air pressure and less oxygen as well as cold and wind trigger short-term reactions in the body – heart rate and ventilation change, for example. If a person remains at high altitude for a more extended period, he or she slowly acclimatises, and the body gradually adapts to the height. In the process, other mechanisms also come into play – for example, the volume of blood increases. Science analyses the connections between the body’s adaptations and the environmental conditions to which the human body is exposed.
In terraXcube scientists work under completely controlled conditions. The Large Cube offers space for up to 15 people with a maximum study duration of 45 days without interruption. The environmental factors can be used individually or in combination, depending on the study objective.
For studies on hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) terraXcube simulates normobaric or hypobaric hypoxia on request. At present, it is still unclear whether the human body reacts in the same way when it only has less oxygen available (normobaric hypoxia) or is additionally exposed to lower air pressure (hypobaric hypoxia). The studies in terraXcube should help to answer this question.
The vast dimensions of the Large Cube allow the simulation of entire emergency scenarios. Scientists are investigating how mental and physical performance changes under extreme conditions. Rescue personnel can train emergencies in the Cube under controlled conditions and test whether, for instance, resuscitation measures and the medical equipment used, work at high altitude and in extreme weather conditions.
The emergency case of hypothermia can also be simulated. Without letting the body temperature drop to critical values, researchers monitor the core body temperature of the participants during the studies, analyse metabolic processes and examine, for example, how much energy the body consumes under the influence of cold.