Astronauts in Orbiting Spacecraft Need to Constantly Monitor Their Body Mass

Astronaut Bill Arthur sets up the SLAMMD during Expedition 12
Astronaut Bill Arthur sets up the SLAMMD during Expedition 12 Image Credit: NASA

Astronauts in orbit need to be able to monitor their body mass to stay healthy and strong 

The SLAMMD is visible here during Expedition 19
The SLAMMD is visible here during Expedition 19 Image Credit: NASA

Space news (astronaut health: protecting astronauts in space; SLAMMD) – the International Space Station –

Traveling in an orbiting spacecraft is hazardous to human health and can lead to bone and muscle mass loss in astronauts during extended missions on the International Space Station. The loss of a significant amount of body mass can have severe consequences all astronauts need to take into serious consider during long stays in space.

The concept of the difference between a body’s mass and weight is something NASA and all astronauts in orbiting spacecraft need to take into serious consideration. Weight is the downward force exerted by a mass as a result of gravity.  Mass is the amount of matter contained within an object. On a regular schedule, astronauts in the International Space Station will conduct a body mass measurement, using a Space Linear Mass Measurement Device (SLAMMD). This is a device operating on the principles of Newton’s Second Law of Motion (F = ma) that measures an astronauts’ mass while in orbit to an accuracy of 0.5 pounds.

The SLAMMD was initially installed during Expedition 11 and has since this time been used consistently by astronauts on the International Space Station to measure their body mass. Essentially, it works using two springs located in a drawer, which is attached to the astronaut being measured. The SLAMMD is designed to always apply a constant force no matter how far the springs are stretched. It measures the average acceleration of an astronauts’ mass, which is used along with the equation F = ma to calculate the mass of the astronaut.

Astronaut Frank De Winne measures his body mass using the SLAMMD during Expedition 20
Astronaut Frank De Winne measures his body mass using the SLAMMD during Expedition 20

The average acceleration of an astronauts’ mass is precisely measured by an optical device which detects the trajectory of the SLAMMD guide arm. A microcontroller collects the displacement versus time data and provides the precise timing required.

You can find more information on NASA and the health issues astronauts deal with while in orbit here.

For more information on the International Space Station visit.

Read about NASA’s Rosetta spacecraft preparing to write history

Read about icy geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus

Learn how you can take part in the hunt for asteroids coming close to Earth