Despite the use of several countermeasures, significant physiological deconditioning still occurs during long duration spaceflight. Bone loss – primarily due to the absence of loading in microgravity – is perhaps the greatest challenge to resolve. This paper describes a conceptual Gravity Loading Countermeasure Skinsuit (GLCS) that induces loading on the body to mimic standing and – when integrated with other countermeasures – exercising on Earth. Comfort, mobility and other operational issues were explored during a pilot study carried out in parabolic flight for prototype suits worn by three subjects. Compared to the 1- or 2-stage Russian Pingvin Suits, the elastic mesh of the GLCS can create a loading regime that gradually increases in hundreds of stages from the shoulders to the feet, thereby reproducing the weight-bearing regime normally imparted by gravity with much higher resolution. Modelling shows that the skinsuit requires less than 10 mmHg (1.3 kPa) of compression for three subjects of varied gender, height and mass. Negligible mobility restriction and excellent comfort properties were found during the parabolic flights, which suggests that crewmembers should be able to work normally, exercise or sleep while wearing the suit. The suit may also serve as a practical 1 g harness for exercise countermeasures and vibration applications to improve dynamic loading
The microgravity of orbital flight is tough on the bones. Even with regular exercise, an astronaut can lose 1.5 per cent of the mass of some bones in the hips and lower back in just one month. That is similar to the bone loss experienced by a post-menopausal woman in a year.
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