Crewmembers train for years to develop the stamina, muscle mass, and cardiovascular capacity necessary to withstand the rigors of space travel. However, NASA data has shown that the reduced-gravity environment of space can begin to reverse these hard-won gains in a matter of days. Crewmembers returning from a two-week shuttle mission have often been found to suffer significant losses to their pre-flight aerobic capacity. Similar losses in bone health and strength are also commonplace.
In order to counteract the de-conditioning effects of the reduced-gravity space environment, crewmembers must engage in frequent, sustained exercise during a mission, with daily sessions lasting up to two hours. The HRP studies the effects of different types of exercise on crewmember performance before, during, and after a mission. Based on their research, HRP scientists and engineers develop equipment and exercise guidelines designed to promote optimal crew health and productivity.
Because future missions will involve extended space travel and habitation, current and planned research projects will focus on developing new exercise guidelines and adaptable equipment to help offset the impacts of longer-term stays in the space environment.