Astronauts deal with one to two percent total bone loss per month aboard the ISS. The process has yet to be fully combated, but scientists in the Vertical Treadmill Laboratory are working hard to get the astronauts the physical care they need when working.
The tour guide, Gail Perusek, showed the tour the evolution of the workout facilities aboard the ISS. The harness strapping the astronauts down to the treadmill was at one time cumbersome and painful, but after a suggestion from an intern, they were able to take advice from the backpacking world and modify the device to better comfort. After several generations and with the help of former crew aboard the ISS, the newest generation of the device was created. It will fly within the next year and hopefully improve total astronaut health with the benefit of comfort.
Perusek also explained the research that is currently going on with a vertical treadmill setup. The test subject is suspended in a horizontal position, with numerous cables and harnesses supporting their body and limbs. The person will then run on a vertical treadmill setup and report how similar to running upright the experience is. The treadmill can be tilted from vertical to different angles to simulate different gravity conditions; about a 9-degree tilt from vertical simulates the Moon’s gravity, at 1/6th of Earth’s gravity. Perusek talked about how researchers use bed rest studies that last several months to try to approximate the effect of microgravity on astronauts’ bodies.