Draper (Thomas Abitante Rachel Bellisle)

NASA astronaut Steve Swanson exercises on the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT) in the Tranquility Node 3 module of the International Space Station (ISS). Credit: NASA.

Research by an HST faculty member, and HST students, is aimed at solutions to the need for new space suits and muscle stimulators which could keep spacefarers fit on long voyages.

Thomas Abitante and Rachel Bellisle, both HST Medical Engineering and Medical Physics (MEMP) PhD students, and both Draper Scholars at Draper Laboratory, a nonprofit engineering company that often does work for NASA and the Department of Defense, are now working on possible solutions to counteract muscle and bone problems. The research efforts were conducted under the direction of Dava Newman, an HST faculty member, director of the MIT Media Lab, the Apollo professor of astronautics, and a former NASA deputy administrator. Newman’s work in advanced space suit design, and in dynamics and control of astronaut motion, serves as the foundation for the researchers’ work in mechanical countermeasures for spaceflight. Abitante and Bellisle work in the MIT Human Systems Lab with Newman on human spaceflight research.

You can read more about the research on the Draper website.

The research has also been highlighted in a recent article in Wired. Here is an excerpt from an article by Sarah Scoles:

On Monday, an astronaut capsule that looks like a giant orange juicer splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean, bringing its four-person crew back under the influence of Earth's gravity. These astronauts have spent six months on the International Space Station, and so the gravity now tugging at their bodies will feel familiar to them, but strange.

This team, called SpaceX Crew-2, spent much of the past half-year in orbit doing spacefaring scientific work, like testing out “tissue chips,” small-scale analogs of human organs. But they also whiled away the hours as gym rats: Six days a week, they had a 2.5-hour exercise block to reduce the damage that living in space can do to the body. Space, as they say, is hard. But it’s particularly hard on humans. Radiation, lack of gravity, and living in confined spaces each take their tolls.

Read more here.