Not your father’s Bowflex

November 19, 2008

It’s been glibly remarked that the Space Shuttle is the world’s most expensive delivery van.  This week, it’s partially true: Endeavour is taking a new workout machine to the ISS, as shown in this unusually detailed CNN report:

The advanced Resistive Exercise Device, aRED for short, functions like a weight machine in a gym on Earth, except it has no conventional weights. Instead, it has vacuum cylinders — canisters with air that have had a vacuum applied — that provide concentric workloads up to 600 pounds, NASA says.

Obviously, working out in space is very important, as the article says, but I have to wonder… how in the heck are they going to ge that thing aboard?  Just look at that picture, it’s HUGE.  I’m guessing it’s in pieces, and they’ll float ’em through the dock and then assemble it (I wonder which astronaut drew the short straw for THAT task…  You think these things are hard to put together on earth, just imagine what one is like in microgravity).

One thing that caught my eye was this little throwaway line:

Between the vacuum cans and the bar, there are small flywheels that spin in opposite directions, creating an artificial gravity when someone lifts the bar.

A-say what now?!  Artificial gravity?!  I’m guessing that this means that it pushes “down” against the user, essentially pulling toward the user’s feet with an Earth-like gravity.  How cool is that?

Also going to the ISS, a new-style Water Recovery System that will now recycle the crew’s urine into drinking water.

P + WRS = H20(ok)

P + WRS = H20(ok)

Look at it: also HUGE.  Two full double-wide rack-units worth of pee-transforming mechanical goodness.

But really, I think if you’re going to have something that’s recycling your bodily wastewater, you want it to look like this: big cylinders and tubes and pipes and buttons…  If it was just one tiny little self-contained solid-state machine that you could carry in your pocket, wouldn’t you be suspect of its results?


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