Without daily exercise during long space missions, muscles and bones deterioration starts to occur in the human body. This is one of the big challenges to prevent or at least minimize, in order to ensure that astronauts & space explorers stay fit.
Space explorers will eventually return to Earth or land on another terrestrial object and therefore their bodies need to be ready to cope with the physical impact from gravity. Different tasks such as working on foreign planets or moons with different gravitational fields will also demand astronauts to stay fit.
E4D (European Enhanced Exploration Exercise Devices) is capable of providing four main exercise types during future spaceflight. These makes it possible to perform a vast number of different exercises and have the possibility to add more exercise types if required.
The four exercise modes provided are; Resistive exercise, Cycling, Rowing and Rope pulling. As these are known from ground, it is possible to compare data from subject exercising on E4D with data obtained from ground tests. This also means that E4D can serve as both an exercise equipment used as part of a space explorer’s daily routine to stay fit, and as a verification method for scientific tests.
E4D can both provide a constant force and simulate inertia. The inertia simulation can be set to simulate any gravity the user wish. This way the user can try how it will feel to do weightlifting on i.e. Mars. Another feature the motor provides is the ability to change the eccentric load to anything from 50-200%. This allows E4D to create eccentric overload or underload of the subject by increasing or decreasing the load during the eccentric movement. The E4D supports 30+ various resistive exercises. Resistive exercises can be performed up to 600 pound loads.
CYCLING ERGOMETER EXERCISE
E4D load the user based on power. A power-based loading is closer to real life biking. Power-based loading means that the user generates a fixed power. Higher RPM means less torque and vice versa. This load type combined with the flexibility of the digitally controlled loading mechanism allows the user to perform pre-set loading profiles. As an example, the user could get the power curve from a Tour de France stage. The workload regulation also ensures that the user will be forced to perform the set workload, indifferent of the performed cadence. E4D Support loads up to 500W and a cadence of 120-160 rpms and higher.
Rowing on E4D is aimed at being similar to rowing on a commercial rowing machine. The flywheel creates the feeling of accelerating a boat when pulling the rowing handle. The braking band will slow down the flywheel according to the chosen intensity, at a scale from 1 to 10. Higher intensity will slow down the flywheel more between each stroke. An increase in intensity will feel like rowing in a larger boat.
ROPE PULLING EXERCISE
Rope pulling on E4D is an aerobic/resistance exercise where the user can do hand over hand pulling or two hand pulling. The exercise targets the muscles used if the crew must get out of a capsule or pull another crew member out of a capsule in an emergency. The user can select an intensity from 1-10 just as with rowing.
The E4D system handles the measured and calculated data in multiple ways. It can be shown to the user, using the graphical display on the tablet PC. It can be stored in datafiles, or it can be transmitted on a network connection in real-time. For remote monitoring in real-time, the network connectivity is also used for transmitting telemetry and receiving commands from remote operators. By doing so, remote personnel can assess if it is safe to continue exercising. Since telemetry is dependent on network connectivity, there will be gaps in the data if network connectivity is lost. The telemetry accuracy and sampling frequency can be adjusted based on the capabilities of the network.
In order to make exercise more interesting and keeping the user motivated to perform exercise, the E4D could be extended to contain entertainment elements.
By using the tablet PC, the user could be watching a movie or listening to music while exercising.
A competitive element could also be added, by having a “high score” of other crewmembers shown while performing exercise. This could motivate the user to perform more exercise in a competitive manner. By having remote telemetry and commanding connectivity, the user could also be performing exercise in combination with users on ground. i.e. Participating in events on ground etc.
The E4D software application enables the complete control of the E4D hardware device, from configuration to usage and ultimately to data acquisition and analysis. It includes:
- Modular design that enables changing or adding new exercises. durations etc.
- Prescription based exercises including advanced scheduling capabilities.
- Selected key performance indicators, analysis data and progress information are all directly visible to the user.
- Exercise/Prescription history viewer.
- Configurable data acquisition that supports encrypted streaming to data files, live telemetry (e.g. ADAM) and NRT (NASA Near Real-Time data).
- Secure commanding and remote management interface.
E4D is planned to be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2023/2024.