A pending crew of astronauts just declared their plans for an Olympic Games in space this summer.
The spaceflyers are set to take off for the International Space Station on July 14. Due to their timing, they will be at the station during this year’s London Olympics. Inspired by the games and an ever-pressing need to stay fit while in space, these astronauts are planning to simulate as many events as possible.
This group of hopefuls is comprised of NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency spaceflyer Akihiko Hoshide, and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. They will be on the station for four months. During the Olympics they will be attempting their best zero-gravity feats. Previous voyagers have docked during the winter games and attempted events like space-skiing, zero-G luge, and even weightless figure skating. Mostly, these are just creative ways for the astronauts to get much needed exercise.
Staging sporting events in space, even on non-Olympic years is common. Williams caught runners’ eyes in 2007 as she ran simultaneously with the Boston Marathon. She used a special treadmill and completed the 26.2 mile run in 4 hours, 24 minutes.
Again, these are just necessary evils. Space is a dangerous place for our bodies. According to NASA, the zero gravity floating can cause space travelers to lose 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass each month they are in orbit. To combat that, unique exercise equipment has been flown to the space station. Among that equipment is the advanced Resistive Exercise Device (aRED). The aRED is similar to a weight machine, using vacuum cylinders instead of weights. The astronauts also have a bicycle and a treadmill equipped with harnesses. The harnesses hold the astronaut down and create a false sense of force, making the exercise more difficult.
These activities become pivotal for the well-being of the travelers who already have to meet rigorous physical requirements just to get on the shuttle. Some of their pre-flight requirements include having the ability to swim three non-stop laps in a 25 meter pool, swim while wearing a flight suit, and tread water suited up for ten minutes. These tests require serious physical fitness. Doubtfully would they want to lose that as they float in zero gravity.
Best of luck Team USA in the sky as they make staying fit a little more fun during the 2012 Olympic Games.