Let’s first agree that there is no need to worry about fashion while you’re in space. With that said, NASA has come up with a pair of high-tech, but ugly sandals that can measure forces put on the astronauts while in zero gravity in space. The ForceShoe will help scientists understand the effects of gravity, the astronaut’s current exercise regimen on the International Space Station and how they can improve workouts to ensure they retain muscle mass and bone density.
Living and working in zero gravity in space means there’s no resistance and nothing for your muscles to work hard against. So to maintain muscle mass and bone density, astronauts have to exercise a lot, doing cardio and weight-bearing exercises. NASA has worked pretty hard over the years to engineer equipment that can provide their team a good workout with machines like the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED). Up until now though, NASA scientists haven’t really known the impact of the workouts on the astronauts bodies.
So to better understand the forces at play while astronauts are working out, NASA and high-tech company, XSENS created a pair of shoes that measure exercise loads and ground reaction forces. The orthotic sandals are equipped with sensors to determine what loads are applied downward as well as during front-to-back and side-to-side movements. The astronauts will wear the sandals during their workout and even around the Space Station to keep track of movements and loads. Data will be transmitted via Bluetooth to station computers, which is then sent to scientists back on Earth to evaluate.
Currently, the ForceShoe is just being validated to test out the technology. Eventually though, the data will help inform scientists on what kind of forces astronauts are experience and what other kinds of exercise they may need to maintain strength while in space. “As we prepare for future missions to asteroids, Mars and beyond, we need to think about minimizing and miniaturizing equipment because spacecraft will be smaller,” says Andrea Hanson, Ph.D. and ISS Exercise Hardware Specialist. “The ForceShoe is a great example of the way we can shrink some of our research tools for future missions.”