NASA Now: Exercise Physiology: Countermeasures
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NASA Now: Exercise Physiology: Countermeasures

[ Sound Effects ] Hi I’m Kristin and this is
NASA Now for November 30, 2011. It looks fun to float around
effortlessly in space, but over a long period
of time, your bones and muscles would start to
weaken from lack of resistance. So what do astronauts
do to stay healthy and strong during
the long visits to the International
Space Station? We’ll find out in a minute, first here’s what’s
happening at NASA Now. [ Sound Effects ] After almost six months aboard
the International Space Station, Expedition 29 returns to Earth
on the Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft. Russian recovery
teams were on hand to help the crew exit the Soyuz
vehicle and adjust to gravity after their long stay in space. [ Sound Effects ] Now let’s take a
look at the past. [ Sound Effects ] June 1965, the Gemini 4
crew performed the first in-flight exercise. The device consisted of two
rubber bungee cords attached to a nylon handle at one end and to a nylon foot
strap at the other. During the 4-day mission, each astronaut used the
device several times a day for 15 to 30 minutes. [ Sound Effects ] Physical fitness is just as
important in space as it is on Earth, but exercising
in space can be difficult. What good are weights, if
weights don’t have any weight? NASA engineers have come up
with a few countermeasures to help keep the
astronauts healthy. Biomedical Engineer Aaron
Weaver will help explain. Hi, I’m Aaron Weaver, and
this is the Exercise Counter Measures Lab. At the Exercise Counter
Measures Laboratory, we have a treadmill that’s not
mounted like your treadmill at home or in the gym. We put our treadmill vertically and have a runner
running on his back. The purpose of this is to
try to mimic the treadmill that we have on the
space station. Lets take a look at how
he got into this position. The first thing we
do is put these cuffs and the cuffs will go on
both the arms and the legs. And what these do is allow
us to attach bungee cords to those cuffs because gravity
is still here even though we are trying to mimic what is going
on at the space station. But now gravity is going to want to pull your arms
and legs behind you. So now that most of the
cuffs are on the subject, we put the harness on him. He is now going to
climb up onto the table. Then, we are going to
hook him up to a bunch of different bungee cords and
cables that are on the ceiling because we are trying to mimic
weightlessness at this point. So we want him to be
as natural as possible. Now, what we are going to do
is lift him up off the gurney or the bed that he is on and
this is actually now going to put him suspended in air. And now he is ready
to start running. Everyone should be getting
as much exercise as possible, but the reasonable amount that
is suggested is an hour a day. The astronauts are allotted
two and a half hours a day, which sounds like a lot of time,
but when you take out the fact that time includes
getting dressed, setting the equipment up,
cleaning up, showering. So they are allotted
extra time for that. On Earth, we can do things like
play sports and other things that are active, for exercise, that they can’t do
on the Space Station. It’s a little difficult
to have a football game on the Space Station. So, we have them doing things
like treadmill exercise, which basically,
so they can run. We have stationary bicycles. We have resistive exercises,
which mimic lifting weights. [ Music ] One of the things that we’re
currently working on here at NASA Glenn is a
redesign of the harness that the astronauts
use to exercise on the treadmill on
the Space Station. In microgravity, they
need, you need to be held down to the treadmill,
because you can imagine as soon as you took the first step, you’d fly up and
hit the ceiling. So to do that, they currently
wear a harness similar to this over here, which, we’ve
been using for and its fine, but it’s not necessarily
that comfortable. So, what we’re doing is
redesigning the harness to be more like you’d
see in a backpack. The primary objective of the
exercises that we have them do, it’s not, I mean, it’s to
keep them in general shape, but it is to try to keep them
from losing bone and muscle and other types of
properties in the body. Typical, average for
a longer term mission, astronaut might lose 1% to
2% of their bone, per month, which is a lot, if you’re in
space for a couple of months. To compare to what happens here
on Earth, women, as they age, typically, can have
osteoporosis. And, so, those people
on Earth might lose .1%, which is 10 times less bone
than you’re losing in space. So, an astronaut does
regain their muscle and bone mass once
they return to Earth. Basically, over the
course of a year or two, they’re in a program that
helps them gain that back. We are working on things that would be more
suitable to go to Mars. One of the challenges we
have, when you go longer term in travel, is exercise
becomes more important, because I said you lose 1% to
2% of your bone per month, so, on the Space Station, we’re
up there for six months, so that means you might
lose 6% to 10% of your bone. If you’re gone for three
years, that goes up to, say, 30% of your bones, so
you’re losing a lot. One of the challenges we have
is how to develop equipment and instruments that are
smaller, so that we don’t take up all the room in the
capsule trying to do exercise and medical stuff, when,
obviously, if we’re going to go to Mars, we’d like to do a lot
more science type missions, when we get there. [ Sound Effects ] Did you know that the vertical
treadmill can simulate three different gravity environments? The microgravity conditions
on the ISS, the 1/6 gravity of the moon and the 3/8
gravity found on Mars. Now you know. [ Sound Effects ] There are many negative
effects to living in space and the only way
scientists learn how to counteract these challenges
is through testing and research. You and your students can
explore these challenges through five different
activities in the lesson plan titled
Space Adaptations: The Body. Look for them on the NASA
Explorer Schools Virtual Campus. Well that’s it for NASA Now,
be sure to join us on Facebook and let us know your
thoughts, Until next time – we’ll see you then on NASA Now. [ Sound Effects ] NASA Now comes to you
from the Virtual Campus at NASA Explorer Schools.

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