It allows squat exercise in the horizontal position, which is of particular importance because this is the highest priority resistive exercise currently performed by astronauts during space flight. The exercise targets the muscle and skeletal areas most affected by weightlessness. The squat exercise makes up for the fact that in space astronauts’ muscles and bones no longer need to support their body in an upright posture when they move around as they do in normal earth gravity.
It is of vital importance to the health of astronauts to better understand the effectiveness of resistive exercise in maintaining muscle and bone strength during long-term space flight, and this device makes it possible to conduct studies that examine this question.
The device is a breakthrough for the rehabilitation field because it bridges the gap between severe dysfunction in bed-ridden patients, or patients confined to a wheelchair, and more traditional forms of rehabilitation.
At present, the rehabilitation of severely injured patients is a slow process because there are very limited means for increasing strength, particularly in the legs and back, when patients still lack the strength to support their bodies upright against gravity.
This device will be used as part of the NASA Exercise Countermeasures Project currently being carried out at Johnson Space Center, Glenn Research Center, and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
The Horizontal Exercise Fixture bed was reconfigured to provide ultrasound scanning access to the leg muscles while the subject is lying supine.