If you’re hoping to be an astronaut, I hope you like exercise. When they aren’t sleeping or doing a range of scientific activities, astronauts are exercising – upwards of 2 hours a day. This is to prevent bone mass and muscle atrophy caused by microgravity. This isn’t a perfect solution, so NASA researchers have developed a vertical treadmill that will let them imitate the conditions of space here on Earth. Now even the astronauts on the ground will have to run, run, run.
The new device, developed at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland is called the Standalone Zero Gravity Locomotion Simulator. Instead of a regular treadmill, this is mounted to the wall. The runners are then suspended horizontally and pulled towards the treadmill to let them actually run without pushing away from the treadmill.
With this setup, astronauts are essentially getting the same workout they get in space; they no longer have to support the weight of the body over top of them. The equipment can simulate microgravity, or conditions on the Moon, where an astronaut will experience 1/6th the force of gravity. Scientists can then study the long term effects on the human body, and see what techniques will prevent bone loss and muscle atrophy.
“These studies are a key component of our research into how we can better protect astronauts,” said Linda Loerch, project manager for the Exercise Countermeasures Project at Johnson. “The focus of our work is to understand how to maintain astronaut health and performance at the highest possible levels, both on our current flights aboard the International Space Station and for future exploration beyond Earth orbit.”
There’s another advantage too. The treadmill will help give training astronauts a sense of what walking in space will be like. Combine this training with the underwater simulations, and astronauts will be much better prepared for when they step outside the space station for the first time.
Original Source: NASA News Release