Right now, engineers from SDU and Danish Aerospace Company are collaboration on creating training equipment for future astronauts. Training with robots instead of very heavy exercise bikes that are currently being used, will improve the training and be more practical on board a spacecraft.
The training robot has been developed over the last many years, but it is now possible for the engineers to test the robots in new situations, which can provide knowledge of how they can help both astronauts, but also people on the ground – say patients that have been in an accident and so forth.
At SDU’s health technologies program, developing machines for helping people that have been sick or in accidents has been underway for years.
The machine helps remove gravity, which is very helpful for patients dealing with e.g. paralysis, because simply lifting an arm or a leg can be almost impossible. Through the machine you can decide how much weight to remove, which is helpful on Earth because we have gravity, but in space you can turn the machine upside down and thereby help weightless people to train.
The training of astronauts in space is very important, because they can lose up till 1 percent muscle mass a day, which will eventually render them incapacitated if they do not exercise every day. But until now, the machines have been heavy and expensive, which makes the SDU robot even more interesting – they are cheap, small and most importantly, effective.
Anders Stengaard Sørensen, Senior Lecturer and at SDU and PhD in Engineering, says the following about the project: “We get a chance to test our training technology in special scenarios providing us with knowledge and data to be used in all sorts of contexts. Optimum training of an astronaut is not very different from optimum training of an elite athlete or rehabilitation of weak patients or other special training tasks. We have shown that it is possible to simulate gravity in a realistic manner – the next step is to refine the robot and get it tested by people who really understand space training.”
See the video here (English subtitles)