Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Experiments: Space Workout

Thayer School tested an astronaut exercise plan during flights over the Gulf of Mexico last spring. Abigail Davidson ’05 Th’07, Lauren Edgar ’07, Eve Russell ’05, and Jennifer Tonneson ’06 conducted experiments during 30-second intervals of weightlessness as part of NASA’s Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program.

The exercises, designed to combat the bone and muscle loss astronauts experience on long missions, utilize elastic bands that take up a lot less space than the bulky exercise machines NASA currently uses.

WEIGHTLESS: Lauren Edgar ’07 records data while Abby Davidson ’05 Th’07 exercises in zero-gravity conditions. Photograph courtesy NASA.
WEIGHTLESS: Lauren Edgar ’07 records data while Abby Davidson ’05 Th’07 exercises in zero-gravity conditions. Photograph courtesy NASA.

The students were building on 2004 experiments conducted by Stephanie Feldman ’04, Chelsea Morgan ’04, Lea Kiefer ’04, and Lauren Talbot ’04. That group developed the concept with DHMC physician Jay Buckey, a former astronaut. The exercises, called the Dartmouth Resistance Exercises for Antigravity Muscles (DREAM), proved to be effective in muscle activation during the first round of experiments. Davidson says the second group wanted to expand on the initial demonstration by testing additional exercises, developing visual feedback on muscle activation during the exercises, and improving the electromyogram data analysis.

The team spent 10 days in Houston, where they became flight-certified and then performed tests for two days on a jet that flies parabolic arcs to produce weightless periods.

The students presented their findings at the Aerospace Medical Association Conference in May. “Everyone there thought this was a fantastic idea and wanted to know what our next step was,” says Abigail Davidson. “We are actually hoping that NASA will in some form adopt this exercise regimen for astronauts.”

—Jennifer Seaton

Categories: The Great Hall, Experiments

Tags: projects, research, students

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