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Surviving in Space



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Put Some Muscle in It!
Photograph by Cary Wolinsky


Path of most resistance: Michael Rapley, an exercise physiologist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, demonstrates a squat with an exercise device that astronauts will use on the International Space Station. Previously, exercise in space was limited to treadmills, bicycles, and bungee cords. With this new machine, astronauts can dial in precise levels of resistance. Crank handles near Rapley’s knees turn aluminum-rimmed, rubber-spoked wheels inside the cylinders, as if winding tension on a spring. The machine accomodates 16 different exercises including squats, dead lifts, heel lifts, and various presses and curls. Weightless in space, astronauts must use more resistance than on the ground because they no longer have to lift their own body weight—in a squat, for example—as part of the task.



Camera: Nikon N90
Film Type: Fujichrome Provia
Lens: 35-70mm zoom
Speed and F-Stop: 1/30 @ f/11
Weather Conditions: N/A
Time of Day: Business hours
Lighting Techniques: Comet strobes with umbrellas and sofbox.

Special Equipment or Comments:
Interim Resistance Exercise Device (IRED) is a new kind of exercise equipment being tested for use on the International Space Station. The pressure was on the group at NASA that developed it. Testing space is very limited in this building, and the IRED tests had been relegated to an oversize closet where the device was stored along with filing cabinets. The room was cluttered and the light was terrible. I asked Michael Rapley, an exercise physiologist who helped develop the device, where I might photograph it. The closet was my only choice. Luckily my son was traveling with me as an assistant. We picked up a large roll of seamless white paper at a photo supply house, then headed back to NASA to clear out the closet. We lit the background two stops brighter than Mike so it would “blow out” using umbrellas on two Comet strobe heads. Mike we lit with a sofbox over a Comet strobe head. It was so tight in the room, I had to shoot through the doorway from the hall. The IRED is capable of delivering more than 300 pounds (136 kilograms) of resistance. Mike had a good workout while I was shooting and asked frequently if I would be finished soon.



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