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Featuring: NASA EDGE and NASA Glenn Research Center’s Enhanced Zero-Gravity Locomotion Simulator (eZLS)

After subjecting themselves to a battery of medical tests, the NASA EDGE Host and Co-Host suit up for workouts on the vertical treadmill. Though Chris’s heart rate actually dropped in the simulated Martian environment, Blair’s performance actually increased the entire Exercise Countermeasures Team’s collective heart rate. Clearly eZLS gurus, Gail Perusek and Kelly Gilkey, will consider different physical requirements for medianauts/co-hosts.

CHRIS: Welcome to NASA EDGE…

BLAIR: An inside and outside look at all things NASA.

CHRIS: We’re here with Gail Perusek from NASA Glen Research Center. She is the guru for exercise counter measures.

BLAIR: I’m a little curious about that title. Is that a defensive title because it’s really difficult and you want people to think it’s easy? Or is it really easy?

GAIL: We’ll have you exercise here in a few minutes. You can tell us for yourself if it’s easy. But eZLS stands for “enhanced, zero-gravity, locomotion simulator.


BLAIR: And locomotion is not train technology.

GAIL: You’re actually going to be walking and running in a vertical treadmill. We’re going to simulate the on-orbit environment.

CHRIS: Before we did this, we had to take a physical. I’m not quite sure how Blair passed it.

BLAIR: All I’m going to say is I’d talk more about it but then we’d no longer be a family show. It was rough.

[Gail & Chris laughing]

BLAIR: I actually have a surprise for Chris and for science. I’m going to do an experiment during the run today. I’ve got my GPS unit here configured for Mars and my MP3 player here. I’m going to gather some data. Unfortunately the GPS is on France. I couldn’t set the language properly but I think I can still get some good results. As everyone knows the most important part of working out is a good stretching program. I have a mat here to simulate zero gravity stretching. I might do some tumbling moves later. Basically you start in a nice moon grab. Now we’re going to dodge the asteroids. Some of those kinds of moves. To get real limber, you have to be real flexible. Then, you have to be able to strike that “finish the race” pose. So, see me at the finish line with good data. I’ll do a little tumbling. EW!!

CHRIS: What’s the purpose of the exercise counter measures in the treadmill you’re working on here?

GAIL: The eZLS treadmill is simulating on orbit environment. We’re developing devices, exercise systems, and protocols for astronauts for long duration space missions.

KELLY: The first thing we’re going to do is get you suspension cuffs on your arms and your legs.

CHRIS: How ya feeling?

BLAIR: Like Ironman.

CHRIS: Okay.

CHRIS: It kind of looks like you’re getting an exoskeleton put on your body.

BLAIR: It’s very comfortable for me. I think I have innate tolerance for the astronaut program.

CHRIS: Did you know Kelly he’s actually training to become the first medianaut to go to the moon in the next decade?

GAIL: If you’re wearing that shirt, we’ll be able to see you all the way there. We can do hardware checkout. We develop new equipment. And we can actually have humans and systems give us feedback; give us a realistic loading regimen that we can do these tests with.

KELLY: The design, the eZLS, is based off of a design that is over at the Cleveland Clinic. The difference between our system and theirs is that we have the ability to float a treadmill. They don’t have the ability to float their treadmill over there.

BLAIR: It’s like an athletic tuxedo.

CHRIS: You look like a cyborg.

BLAIR: [distorted voice] I am a Cylon.

KELLY: Now we’ve got the harness on you. This is what’s going to be pulling you toward the treadmill while you’re walking and running.

CHRIS: What were you jumping at, 50,000 feet?

BLAIR: I’m a base jumper. Do you know I’m going to go to the 5-second drop tower after this and do a free fall?

CHRIS: This looks very technical, just looking at the apparatus, seeing all the bungee cords and straps. Why do we need all that?

GAIL: To simulate zero gravity on the earth, there’s different ways we can do that. One way is to fly on the parabolic aircraft, like the DC-9.

CHRIS: Right.

GAIL: This can give you 20 or so seconds of true micro gravity.

BLAIR: Not an effective workout.

GAIL: Right, right.

BLAIR: You don’t do that on the DC-9.

GAIL: And the duration is limited. Here we can simulate zero gravity for longer periods of time and do it more cheaply.

KELLY: The next thing we’re going to do is get your limbs supported with all the bungees.

BLAIR: Okay.

KELLY: Okay, you’re going to go in to Pinocchio mode here.

BLAIR: I don’t want to hear things like scalpel.

CHRIS: It’s just amazing from an engineering design what you have to go through to make this all work.

CHRIS: You’ve got ropes, bungees, straps. It gives you an appreciation of being in a one-G environment. When you want to go run, you just go run. Where in space you’re in a whole different ball game. You’ve really got to adapt to that environment. It’s not easy.

KELLY: Absolutely. There was a lot of ingenuity and engineering that went into the design. At this point every part of Blair’s body is being supported. We are going to suspend him up off the gurney. He’ll be completely supported.

BLAIR: For the first time in my career, I will be completely supported.

CHRIS: Hey, peace out. I’ll talk to you later.

[BLAIR laughing]

BLAIR: Oh, that’s freaky feeling.

KELLY: And he’s up.

BLAIR: I want to be a real boy.

KELLY: Do you feel like you’re ready to go up to a jog?

BLAIR: Oh, yeah.

KELLY: Okay. Mark, why don’t you take him up to 4 miles an hour?

CHRIS: When you’re touching the treadmill itself, what does it feel like? Does it feel like all your weight is on there, like when you’re running outside or is it like you’re barely touching it?

BLAIR: It feels like you’re barely touching it. It’s so smooth Chris. You’ll be amazed at how your feet feel on it. It feels like you’re gliding.

BLAIR: I’m sporting the harness they have on the ISS currently. It’s the current model. You can see it’s not as comfortable looking as the one they’re working on now. They’re about to introduce a new one. You don’t just go up with a new one every time you go up to do a mission on the ISS. You have to go through a whole process of getting it approved and finding out what works. This is the current model. I’m sporting it today… astronaut wear by Blair.

KELLY: Do you want to do a walk?

CHRIS: Yeah, let’s do 3 ½

BLAIR: Get ready for fun.

CHRIS: Oh my.

BLAIR: Your heart rate should go down on this one.

CHRIS: I feel movement but it’s not registering in my legs.

BLAIR: What got me was just how smooth the treadmill felt.

CHRIS: Can we go to 5?

MAN: Part of that is the degree and it cushions on your impact.

BLAIR: It was great. That is amazing.

CHRIS: Oh, man.

KELLY: You can see how much longer he’s in the air.

CHRIS: How’s the heart rate?

MAN: You currently at 96.

BLAIR: That’s funny.

CHRIS: Can you bring that up to 7?

BLAIR: That’s as high as I went but you may go further, faster. We can rebuild it. We have the technology. We’re going to make you faster, stronger.

KELLY: On this one, can you really feel how much longer your stride is?

CHRIS: Oh yeah, absolutely.

KELLY: Okay.

CHRIS: It feels like I’m airing a little bit.

BLAIR: Yeah, the extension is amazing.

KELLY: You could envision yourself on Mars running past Spirit and Opportunity.

KELLY: You doing all right?

CHRIS: Yeah. I feel like my stride is even larger now. It’s like I’m airing it more.

BLAIR: Wow, Chris’s heart rate is actually dropping under Martian conditions. He’s that physically fit. We may be here for a while. So, until next time, you’re watching NASA EDGE an inside and outside look at all things NASA.

[computer voice: This is NASA EDGE.]

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