NASA explores equipment to keep astronauts fit

NASA is talking up some of the equipment that it has invented for astronauts to use to keep fit while they are on a long duration space missions. To avoid losing muscle and bone mass, astronauts must work out for two hours each day. During the week ISS astronauts have access to three different pieces of workout gear, a bike, a treadmill, and the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device dubbed ARED.

The catch is that the workout gear that is aboard the ISS is too large to be used in the tight confines of the Orion spacecraft that will eventually carry men to Mars and possibly beyond. This required the design and development of a new device to keep astronauts healthy called the Miniature Exercise Device or MED-2.

MED-2 is a compact all in one device that was developed and will be sent to the ISS on March 22 to see how well the device performs in micro gravity. It's time aboard the ISS will also allow NASA to see if parts of it need to be adapted before it heads to Mars. MED-2 is capable of giving astronauts both aerobic and resistive workouts.

The MED-2 device weighs 65 pounds and has 5-350 pounds of resistance. The varying resistance allows each astronaut to use the right amount of weights for them. Another cool fact about the exercise device is that it powers itself during the aerobic workout and then uses the power generated to run the resistive exercises. It doesn't sound like much fun to be trapped in an Orion spacecraft for an extended time that smells like a sweaty gym locker room, but the exercises are required to keep the astronauts healthy and able to function on their mission.