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Space Suit Bioenergetics: Framework and Analysis of Unsuited and Suited Activity

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Carr CE, Newman DJ. Space suit bioenergetics: framework and analysis of unsuited and suited activity. Aviat Space Environ Med 2007; 78:1013–22.

Metabolic costs limit the duration and intensity of extravehicular activity (EVA), an essential component of future human missions to the Moon and Mars. Energetics Framework: We present a framework for comparison of energetics data across and between studies. This framework, applied to locomotion, differentiates between muscle efficiency and energy recovery, two concepts often confused in the literature. The human run-walk transition in Earth gravity occurs at the point for which energy recovery is approximately the same for walking and running, suggesting a possible role for recovery in gait transitions. Muscular Energetics: Muscle physiology limits the overall efficiency by which chemical energy is converted through metabolism to useful work. Unsuited Locomotion: Walking and running use different methods of energy storage and release. These differences contribute to the relative changes in the metabolic cost of walking and running as gravity is varied, with the metabolic cost of locomoting at a given velocity changing in proportion to gravity for running and less than in proportion for walking. Space Suits: Major factors affecting the energetic cost of suited movement include suit pressurization, gravity, velocity, surface slope, and space suit configuration. Apollo lunar surface EVA traverse metabolic rates, while unexpectedly low, were higher than other activity categories. The Lunar Roving Vehicle facilitated even lower metabolic rates, thus longer duration EVAs. Muscles and tendons act like springs during running; similarly, longitudinal pressure forces in gas pressure space suits allow spring-like storage and release of energy when suits are self-supporting.
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Keywords: energy recovery; extravehicular activity (EVA); muscle efficiency; running; walking

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: From the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.

Publication date: November 1, 2007

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