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Activity Monitoring during Parabolic Flight

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Activity Monitoring during Parabolic Flight
One of the key questions that remains unanswered as we prepare to send humans to other planetary surfaces is the degree to which living and exercising in these reduced gravity environments will provide an osteo-protective stimulus to prevent the loss of bone mineral density (BMD) that has been observed in microgravity. As a primary endpoint of the NSBRI-funded Monitoring Bone Health by Daily Load Stimulus during Lunar Missions project, a small, wireless activity monitoring system has been developed to monitor the mechanical stimulus delivered to the lower extremity during complete days of activity during space missions in a pre-emptive approach to bone health maintenance. The activity monitoring system consists of two units housing tri-axial accelerometers, tri-axial rate gyros, and a Bluetooth radio for wireless communications. The system has been tested in a three-part study utilizing the enhanced Zero-gravity Locomotion Simulator (eZLS) at NASA Glenn Research Center. A total of 42 subjects were recruited to wear the activity monitoring system while performing locomotor and functional tasks at a simulated 1g, 3/8g, or 1/6g. These data have provided a characterization of the expected response from the sensors in the simulated environments. Ultimately, it is desirable to have the activity monitoring sensors be utilized aboard the International Space Station (ISS) or during future lunar or Martian missions. The next step in validating the use of these sensors in a reduced gravity environment is to fly them aboard the parabolic flight program. The testing would consist of approximately 4 flights over the length of one campaign. Varying gravities will be experienced allowing for Martian, lunar and zero-g parabolic testing. During the flight parabolas, the subject will perform a subset of locomotor activities on a treadmill mounted to the surface of the plane. The subject will wear a harness similar to those worn by the crew aboard the ISS, and secured to the surface of the treadmill via a subject load device that will load the subject to various body weights (ranging from 16-100% BW) for testing. The subset of activities to be tested during the parabola flight(s) may include walking (1-3 MPH), running (5-8 MPH), loping (1-3MPH), hopping (1-3MPH), platform jump down, ladder climb, dead lift, lunge, heel raise, and squat exercises. The sensors will be secured to the mid-lower back and around the ankle during all test cases. Five test personnel will be required for the testing of this system during parabolic flight. Only one subject will be tested at a time, leaving four other team members who will serve the following roles: two will serve as spotters for the subject, one will serve as the test operator and the fifth will be a test subject substitute. A dedicated parabolic flight study of locomotor activity and functional tasks similar to those conducted in our ground-based studies will aid in flight-readiness reviews and help validate the system for use in microgravity, possibly aboard the ISS. More »

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Technology Maturity (TRL)

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Light bulb

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