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Portable Unit for Metabolic Analysis
08.29.07
 
Without the effects of gravity, an astronaut's bones, muscles and heart can weaken. Exercise and proper nutrition are important countermeasures to deterioration. For this reason, NASA closely monitors astronaut fitness, especially during long missions.

portable unit for metabolic analysisImage left: Portable Unit for Metabolic Analysis. Credit: NASA

Metabolism, or the rate at which the body produces energy, is a major indicator of fitness and nutrition. NASA monitors metabolic function in astronauts by measuring flow rate, oxygen and carbon dioxide during respiration, the same measurements sports clinicians commonly use to monitor athletes. The devices currently used on the space station, however, are large and immobile. They require astronauts to wear a tether, and they only take one measurement per breath.

A team of engineers at NASA Glenn is developing a Portable Unit for Metabolic Analysis that takes multiple measurements per breath and allows astronauts to move around the spacecraft. Weighing less than 2 pounds, the wearable, wireless unit can transmit data in real time. It could also improve endurance testing for elite athletes and rehabilitation techniques for heart attack patients.