Friday, 29 October 2010

Superhero suit to strengthen astronauts' bones

 
WITH its stitching clearly visible and reference lines drawn in marker pen, the stretchy superhero-blue suit at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Man Vehicle Laboratory doesn't look like much. But if it works as planned it could offer orbiting astronauts a replacement for something they are sorely missing: gravity.
The microgravity of orbital flight is tough on the bones. Even with regular exercise, an astronaut can lose 1.5 per cent of the mass of some bones in the hips and lower back in just one month. That is similar to the bone loss experienced by a post-menopausal woman in a year.
To combat the problem, Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station wear space suits designed to mimic gravity. Bungee cords on the suit's arms and legs exert a force that simulates the body's weight. But these suits are difficult to wear for long periods, and it is not clear how effective they are in preventing bone loss.

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