With around two and half hours set aside for exercise every day, skipping the gym is not an option for astronauts on the International Space Station. Staying active is vital to combat the effects of microgravity on bone and muscle mass. It also ensures astronauts are fit and healthy to perform demanding tasks such as spacewalks, and quickly readapt on their return to Earth.
In episode six of the Beyond mission podcast, ESA Explores, we discuss why exercise is important at every stage of a space mission and how astronaut health is supported by teams and technology on Earth.
Our interviewees are exercise team lead for ESA Nora Petersen and biomedical engineer for ESA Beate Fischer.
Nora and her team of exercise specialists at ESA’s astronaut centre in Cologne, Germany work to provide optimal physical support to European astronauts. She explains the need to equip astronauts with the knowledge and skills to exercise autonomously while on Station, but also while training all around the world as – when ESA astronauts are not in space – they’re not always in Europe. She also touches on what exercise might look like during future missions to the Moon and Mars.
In the video below ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet demonstrates exercise equipment on the International Space Station during his Proxima mission.
As a biomedical engineer for ESA, Beate is an advocate for astronaut health and wellbeing. She and her team work to ensure astronauts have a balanced workload while on the International Space Station with sufficient free time, lunch breaks and opportunities to spend downtime with other crewmembers. ESA’s biomedical engineers also keep an eye on environmental data such as CO2 levels on Station and ensure astronauts have a healthy environment in which to live and work.
One tool that helps Beate and her team in this is an app called Everywear. In the podcast she explains how this is being used as a nutritional tracker for astronauts as well as a way to protect medical data and collect information for researchers on the ground.