EXPERTS from Swindon are behind a bid to help tackle the problems faced by the elderly using the International Space Station.

The UK Space Agency has new funding of nearly £3m to lead three experiments on the ISS.

The aim is to research and improve understanding of the muscle wasting astronauts endure and how to tackle it, while looking at how that can be applied to the elderly on earth who suffer the same problem.

Sue Horn, head of space exploration at the space agency, said: “We are really pleased to have this funding and it is thoroughly exciting to be building a UK experiment to go on the space station in a bid to develop science.

“The findings from this study will improve our understanding of the processes that underlie muscle loss in space and in elderly people on Earth and indicate potential therapies to prevent it.

“It really is an exhilarating time to be at the agency.”

The experiments are due to launch in 2021. Two will look at age-related muscle loss, while a third will look at new techniques for the production of materials and alloys in space with properties that cannot be obtained on Earth.

The agency will manage the programme from Swindon to ensure instruments for the project are built on time, and that the money and strategy is in place.

Age-linked muscle wasting has a major impact on the quality of life for older people and the cause of the process is not fully understood.

Experiments will be tried using different drugs and proteins in an attempt to slow the ageing process down.

The UK’s ageing society is one of four major challenges identified in the government’s modern industrial strategy.

Science minister Sam Gyimah unveiled the news of the funding for the experiments, ahead of the space station’s 20th birthday.

The station has been continuously occupied for 18 years.

“This research will help those with muscle conditions to live longer, healthier, happier lives, and is a great example of our modern industrial strategy in action – transforming life on earth through out-of-this-world research,” he said.

Spaceflight is an extreme environment that causes many negative health changes to the body of astronauts, they can lose up to 40 per cent of their muscle after six months in space.

These changes are regarded as an excellent model for the ageing process in the body and scientists can use the knowledge gained from studying changes in astronauts over the course of their missions to better understand the ageing human body.

Astronauts are required to do a minimum of two hours exercise a day.

The agency is also working on gathering funding for a proposed mission to Mars to collect rock and atmospheric samples to bring back to earth.

Scientists believe this could reveal how Mars has evolved, the what lifeforms may be on the planet and if there are any dangers.