The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) is testing an artificial gravity system to deal with muscle atrophy on long-term space flights:
A bike-like centrifuge that creates artificial gravity may help astronauts combat muscle atrophy in space. Through a study at the University of California, Irvine, the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) is exploring the concept of a Space Cycle for inflight resistance-training exercise.
“Even with onboard exercise, astronauts face the risk of losing muscle mass and function because their muscles are not bearing enough weight, or load,” said Dr. Vincent J. Caiozzo, investigator on NSBRI’s Muscle Alterations and Atrophy Team. “For exploration, it is important to find ways to increase load-bearing activity so astronauts can maintain strength.”
Caiozzo’s team is researching whether squats executed under artificial gravity conditions greater than or equal to Earth gravity (1g) produce the same kind of muscle responses that occur when a person performs weight training on Earth.
With long-term initiatives like the International Space Station and the proposed lunar and Mars missions, the rate of muscle loss in some areas might rise to 25 percent unless measures are taken to confront atrophy. The loss of muscle strength during an extended mission could pose dramatic problems in the event of an emergency situation upon landing.
The Space Cycle, a human-powered centrifuge under testing in Caiozzo’s lab, generates various levels of artificial gravity ranging from Earth gravity to five times Earth’s gravity. The speed of rotation determines the level of gravitational force.
Participants ride opposite one another – one on a bike and one on a platform. As one person pedals, the cycle moves in a circular motion around a centralized pole. The motion generates pressure on the rider, forcing him against the seat in a manner similar to the effect of gravity on Earth. On the platform, the other person performs squat exercises. Instruments on the device report the separate work rates of the participants.