They may be in zero gravity 24-7 but astronauts on the International Space Station still like to be fashionable, not to mention fit for the eventual return home. That’s why, on the latest excursion to the station, NASA sent them pairs of ForceShoes – newly designed shoes that look good and will help keep the astronauts in shape while in zero G.
A major problem for humans on long duration spaceflights is the loss of bone and skeletal muscle strength and volume – up to 15 percent - due to the lack of constant resistance to the force of gravity. To combat this, NASA scientists developed the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) to simulate free-weight exercises. While ARED worked as hoped, NASA doctors were never exactly sure how or why. As ISS Exercise Hardware Specialist Andrea Hanson explains, something more was needed.
ARED is a sophisticated exercise device. Although it has helped NASA provide better health outcomes for crew members, there is still progress to be made in understanding the effects of exercise on bone and muscle health, and the ForceShoe will help us do that.
The ForceShoe measures loads applied downward as well as during front-to-back and side-to-side movements. ISS crew members will first wear them while doing a simple barbell press on the ARED to test the shoes. Then they’ll perform an array of exercises including squats, dead lifts and bicep curls. The ForceShoe will collect the force data and transmit it via Bluetooth to computers on the space station, where it will be accumulated and forwarded to NASA.
The ForceShoe and ARED will eventually help researchers plan specific exercises to prepare astronauts for the various g-forces and terrain they will encounter on missions to asteroids, Mars and beyond. It’s hoped that the lessons learned can eventually be applied on Earth in situations where humans are restricted in the types of exercises and activates they can perform due to injuries, aging or lack of space.
Once the public sees them in action, it won’t be long before the endorsement deals are signed and we see Air ForceShoes.