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Step Lightly: A Space-Age Treadmill That Reproduces Microgravity on Earth [Slide Show]

Rehabbing soldiers, seniors and surgery patients alike find comfort in a gravity-negating treadmill inspired by efforts to keep astronauts healthy and strong during extended orbital missions

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DEFYING GRAVITY

The lower-body positive pressure system evolved into the AlterG, seen here. The device can alleviate up to 80 percent of a person's weight by lessening the gravitational pull on that person's mass.....[ More ]

COLBERT

Astronaut Sunni Williams runs on the first treadmill installed on the International Space Station . Engineers applied lessons from the first treadmill when they designed the "Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill," or COLBERT , named after comedian Steven Colbert.....[ More ]

WARRIOR

U.S. Army Sgt. Damon Warren recuperates from injuries sustained during combat in Iraq with the help of an AlterG at Peak Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine in Plano, Tex., near his hometown of Carrollton....[ More ]

TEAM EFFORT

Palo Alto VA employee Doug Schwandt (pictured here in the prototype air-differential pressure bubble) was the primary designer of the lower-body positive pressure system.....[ More ]

STAYING POSITIVE

Charles in a side view of the lower-body positive pressure system. The researchers believed that the use of air pressure as a way of applying a strong force—equal to body weight—to astronauts during treadmill exercise that would work better than the waist harness system in use.....[ More ]

ALTERG'S PREDECESSOR

Charles demonstrates a lower-body positive pressure system designed to unload the body with air pressure in July 1998 at the Palo Alto VA. Charles Burgar [ far left ], the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development medical director at the time, was the principal investigator funded to study the concept for stroke rehabilitation.....[ More ]

EARLY DAYS

Engineer Greg Breit [left] runs the computerized pressure control system while Whalen walks in the device. Whalen researched exercise devices that the U.S. and Soviet Union had developed for astronauts and cosmonauts.....[ More ]

THE ONION

In a photo from 1994 or early 1995 Whalen is walking and jogging in the upper-body positive pressure device (which he says resembles an onion). He recalls walking and running at 130 percent and 160 percent of his body weight.....[ More ]

PACKING ON THE POUNDS

Charles stands on a scale and finds that air pressure within the fabric bubble increased his (effective) body weight by well more than 45 kilograms.....[ More ]

NEGATIVE PRESSURE

John Charles, NASA program scientist for the Human Research Program (HRP), tests the prototype air-differential pressure bubble in July of 1998 at the at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs hospital. Robert Whalen stands to Charles's left.....[ More ]

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