menu

Exoskeleton Could Help Astronauts Run A Marathon In Space

Exoskeleton Could Help Astronauts Run A Marathon In Space
technology

The X1 device may someday be integral for maintaining peak physical condition during deep-space missions, as well as enabling those with impaired mobility here on Earth to walk again.

John Pugh, BI
  • 28 october 2012

Running a marathon on Earth is hard enough; from the Boston Marathon’s famous ‘Heartbreak Hill’ to the trek through the Sahara Desert in the Marathon des Sables, running 26.2 miles is not for the feint of heart. But try running a marathon in space, a feat astronaut Sunita Williams accomplished in 2007. Floating 210 miles above earth on the International Space Station, Williams completed the Boston Marathon in a little over 4 hours, strapped to her treadmill so she wouldn’t float away.

While she didn’t ‘win’ Boston (she ran at the same time the race was held on Earth), she became the first astronaut to finish a marathon in space. Why is her accomplishment so noteworthy? In space, astronauts lose bone-density and muscle mass due to weightlessness because, as Williams said back in 2007, ‘we don’t use our legs to walk around and don’t need the bones and muscles to hold us up under the force of gravity.’

To counteract the effects of weightlessness, all astronauts are required to exercise while stationed at the International Space Station. Still, astronauts lose, on average, 1 to 2 percent bone density each month while in space– comparitevely, an elderly person only loses 1 to 2 percent a year. For astronauts not in peak physical condition like Williams, who was a competitive marathoner before her space run, NASA has developed an exoskeleton that will help them remain in top shape while in microgravity.

The X1 Exoskeleton for Resistive Exercise and Rehabilitation was developed through a joint partnership between NASA and the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), based out of Pensacola, FL, with the additional help of engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston, TX and while still in the research and development phase of production, this device may one day be used to help other astronauts run marathons in space. The exoskeleton also shows promise to help Earth-bound paraplegics, people who experience a similar muscle atrophy as astronauts due to the loss of mobility. To help astronauts and paraplegics strengthen weakened muscles, the X1 Exoskeleton adds resistance to make exercise more challenging, strengthening muscles faster than with traditional weight-bearing exercises. In reverse, the exoskeleton can be used to support the wearer’s body weight, taking over for fatigued and weak muscles.

The 57-pound X1 Exoskeleton is worn over the legs and is held to the body with a harness that reaches over the shoulders; the device has 10 separate joints—four motorized and six passive, as well as several adjustment points, enabling a range of motions and the ability to perform many exercises at once. It also has the ability to provide extra power to a human’s normal movements, a function that could prove useful for future astronauts exploring the surface of planets with different gravities.

Michael Gazarik, director of NASA’s Space Technology Program, in a recent press release shared his thoughts on the impact of this type of project:

Robotics is playing a key role aboard the International Space Station and will continue to be critical as we move toward human exploration of deep space. What’s extraordinary about space technology and our work with projects like Robonaut are the unexpected possibilities space tech spinoffs may have right here on Earth. It’s exciting to see a NASA-developed technology that might one day help people with serious ambulatory needs begin to walk again, or even walk for the first time. That’s the sort of return on investment NASA is proud to give back to America and the world.

Watch the video below to see the X1 Exoskeleton in action, and stay tuned for a possible ‘2050 International Space Station Marathon’ where more than just 1 astronaut is able to run 26.2 miles as they orbit Earth:

NASA

technology
Trending

Japanese Face Wash Creates A Perfect Rose Every Time

Arts & Culture
Mobile Today

Get A Better Idea Of How You Are Wasting Your Time

The TouchTime app is trying to revolutionize personal task management by providing detailed insight on how to be more efficient

Culture Today

London Telephone Box Repurposed As A Tiny Mobile Repair Shop

Tools and supplies to replace broken screens or damage are neatly stowed away in these micro-workrooms

Trending

Get PSFK's Latest Report: Future of Work

See All
Design Today

Conceptual Sportswear Created Out Of Futuristic Condom Material

A Dutch fashion designer is experimenting with new methods and fabrics to make high performance clothing

Syndicated Today

Would You Wear Wool Shoes To Save The Environment?

As demand for wool shoes grows, a number of US footwear brands are heading directly to the source: the sheep pastures of New Zealand

Sustainability Today

Self-Healing Material Is Fashioned Out Of Squid Teeth

Penn State researchers have devised a new textile that uses organic proteins

Arts & Culture Today

Search Engine Turns Your Own Drawings Into Photos

This image-matching software accepts hand-made sketches instead of keywords

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed august 23, 2016

Modern Workplace Culture: No More Fat Cats Or Kissing Ass

Samar Birwadker, CEO & Co-Founder of Good & Co, on designing shared organizational values to optimize employee happiness and success

PSFK Labs Yesterday

PSFK’s Workplace Vision: How The Nurturing Of Seeds Will Come To Define The Onboarding Process

Our Future of Work vision is a service that allows companies to assemble and deliver welcome packets that are uniquely focused on the concept of growth

Arts & Culture Today

Illustrator Interprets The Experiences Of Blind Travelers

Artist Alby Letoy creates drawings of poignant travel memories for the visually impaired

Advertising Today

Clickbait Titles Used For The Good Of Charity

An agency devised an unlikely campaign that uses clickbait as a positive force to drive awareness to nonprofit initiatives

Advertising Today

The Best In Eye-Catching Olympics Campaigns

PSFK rounds out the Rio Games with our picks for the best advertising moments off the field

Work Today

Editorial Roundtable: The Arrival Of The People-First Workplace

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary and thinkPARALLAX enumerate the reasons why companies need an employee-embracing workforce in order to exist

Arts & Culture Today

Transforming Light Waves Into A New Art Form

An artist uses glass treated with layers of metallic coatings to create a unique installation called lightpaintings

INSIGHTS COVERAGE

Rio Olympics
Innovation Coverage From The Rio Games
READ NOW

Design Today

This Windbreaker Lets You Explore The Outdoors While Charging Your Phone

The apparel includes solar panels that allow the wearer to stay connected through the power of renewable energy

Asia Today

The Goal Of This Game Is To Not Get Laid Off From Your Job

A hit mobile app has you working really, really hard to not get fired as you climb the corporate ladder

Advertising Today

Movie Critic Bot Guides Viewers Through Festival Offerings

The Toronto International Film Festival has created a Facebook Messenger chatbot to help attendants curate their schedule

No search results found.