Testing out an astronaut’s exercise regimen

– You’ve been at it for
a good 3 minutes Lauren. – Oh my gosh. Feels like an eternity. – [Lauren] Sending people to space isn’t just about hardware and mechanics. It’s also about biology. You’re body changes a
whole lot in microgravity. And you can be exposed
to some harmful elements. So I’m headed to NASA
to learn how astronauts keep their bodies healthy during missions in space. So a big part of an astronaut’s day is just working out. Here on earth we have
gravity to work against, so just standing works our bones and our muscles, but in zero
gravity you don’t have that so you risk weakening
your muscles and bones. But we’re here at the counter
measures training facility, and you’re job is to
stop that from happening. Well we try to minimize
it as much as possible, and the way we do that is we have them workout
6 out of 7 days a week for 2 1/2 hours per day. – That’s a schedule I
should be adhering to hear on earth. – We all should, but… That time is spent working
out for roughly an hour. Lifting weights on that machine. They’ll run for basically another 45 minutes to an hour. Or they’ll hop on the bike
and exercise that way. – Now I’m gonna get a taste of what it’s like to work
out like an astronaut. – You are. – So I feel like I might need to change. – You better go get dressed down. – Okay. – [Lauren] These aren’t your
average machines at the gym. They’re specifically
designed for microgravity. – If we took a weight
set up to the station it wouldn’t weigh anything. – Just be mass floating
around getting in the way, so we use basically differential pressure. You have two evacuated cylinders, that you can see up there. Inside each cylinder is a piston, so that would be sort of
synonymous with a syringe. – [Lauren] If you were to
close the top of a syringe, it creates a vacuum that’s
hard to pull against. The canisters do basically the same thing, creating a simulated weight that astronauts can lift in space. You’re pulling against that force. – Yes, yes. – Gotcha. – When you’re ready
stand up nice and tall. You have the weight. You’re gonna squat down. There you go. – I’ve been traveling so
I haven’t been working out in a while. So please bare with me. (laughs) – Very good. Step forward. Bring your shoulders and chest forward, look for the orange. Dip, go down. – Does it feel different
when it’s on the station because we are in a gravity environment? – The load will feel the same, however, the machines will move with you. – Give me a break here. Weight lifing really isn’t my thing. So we moved on to something that’s more my beat, cardio. – Now the trick about running
on a treadmill in space is that you actually have to be connected to the treadmill and loaded down to the treadmill surface, Or else you just float away. And you wouldn’t be running very long. So what we have…
– Is a harness. – Is a harness. – How do I look? – Next step is to get
you on this treadmill and connect it to what we call bungees. These are 3 big pieces of surgical tubing. And we’re gonna connect you at the hip. – [Lauren] It’s definitely a bit odd to run while attached at the hip. You’re body wants to move fast, but you feel weighed down. I feel like my body is
trying to be torn in two. (laughs) In space, of course, it’s the only way to stay on the treadmill, and actually get a workout. Here’s a good question. Where does the sweat go? Does it float off and
annoy the other astronauts? – At first it’ll just stick to your face in big balls, big globs of sweat. Because of surface tension. Eventually that ball of sweat will grow and get larger and I you like did that, it’s just gonna fly, and then it’s gonna get captured
by the ventilation system. It’ll get recycled and
it’s tomorrow coffee. (laughs) – Wonderful. [Lauren] I definitely got a workout in by testing another mode on the treadmill and even a bike. They like to give the astronauts options as working out is a consistent
part of their daily routine. But it’s not just bones and
muscles that change in space, astronauts also experience
vision disorders, cardio vascular issues
and balance problems. And then there are health hazards linked with just being outside the
safety of earth’s atmosphere like space radiation. Radiation is concerning
because it can pierce through materials, including
skin and cause damage. There are a few different
sources of space radiation. You’ve got energetic particles that are periodically
ejected from the sun. And then you have deep space cosmic rays, from exploding stars
outside our solar system. Here on earth we’re
protected from good chunk of space radiation thanks to
our planets magnetic field and atmosphere. These two things act like
barriers around earth deflecting a lot of
particles that head our way. Astronauts live outside most
of our protected atmosphere, so they get more exposure on the job. And if they were to go deeper into space, their exposure would be even higher. NASA has a radiation
laboratory set up in New York. The scientists use a particle accelerator to study the effects of space
radiation on DNA and cells. – Instead of bringing the
samples up to the radiation, we bring the radiation
down to the samples. You take ions and you
accelerate around in a ring faster and faster until the
electrons start to strip off. So you’re left with a
residual positive charge and those are the types
of ions that are present in the space radiation environment, but you can generate them on the ground. – So the beam actually comes
from up this tunnel over here. On the rails in there. They might be able to see, and this essentially
becomes a target area, where samples can be brought in and placed on the beam line, so that they can be
exposed in a sequential, systematic kind of a fashion. – [Lauren] Scientists
are then able to test how different levels of
radiation may affect astronauts. – They are monitored carefully, to assess what level of radiation
they have been exposed to. That’s not anything different, then say a nuclear plant
worker, or a coal miner or something who is encountering
some radio active material. – Just another blue
collar job, no problem. – Astronauts have dosimeters
like we actually have here a particle accelerator that
will measure approximately what dose your body has received. – [Lauren] That’s important
because too much radiation can have some nasty affects. – There are 3 main areas
that are of concern to human beings in space travel. One of them is the affects on
the central nervous system. Another major one is the affects
on other organs as a whole. And the third major area of interest, which is probably the
primary one is cancer. – [Lauren] Mitigating
these affects of radiation is a top priority for NASA. And one tool they’re using to reduce damage is spacecraft shielding. Different materials like
aluminum and specialized plastics can block from one quarter to one third of radiation in space. – If you could a more effective
type of shielding material, it would at least reduce
the amount that the person would absorb, and enough of it is blocked such that it doesn’t
really produce any kind of significant biological affects. – [Lauren] Completely preventing exposure is probably not going to happen, but with more research, better shielding can be developed that may make trips into
deep space possible. Until then, I’ll keep
working on my fitness, just in case NASA wants
to send me to orbit. – And it’s the 3 mile an hour walk Lauren so you can just kind of relax. – I mean relax is a relative term here. (laughs) Walking has never been
so difficult before.

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