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Astronaut Marathon Runner! 2007-04-14

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest.
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‘Indian American’ astronaut Ms.Sunita Williams is all set to join ‘The Boston Marathon’ in space on Monday, where she will circle the Earth at least twice running on a treadmill.

[Picture of Sunita Williams]Ms.Williams, an accomplished marathoner, will be running as fast as 13km/h during the 42.16km simulated run at 7:30 pm IST on Monday, the same time the real event will be starting at Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

The Boston Athletic Association has issued bib number 14 000 for Sunita’s use electronically through NASA.

Ms. Williams hopes her unique run, where she will be flying more than 28 968km/h, will serve as an inspiration for young people to take up physical exercise.

‘I encourage kids to start making physical fitness part of their daily lives,’ Ms. Williams said.

‘I think a big goal like a marathon will help get this message out there.’

Regular exercise is essential to maintaining bone density while in space for astronauts.

‘In microgravity, both of these things start to go away because we don’t use our legs to walk around and don’t need the bones and muscles to hold us up under the force of gravity,’ she said.

Sunita has been training for the marathon for months while serving a six-month stint as a flight engineer on board the International Space Station (ISS).

She runs at least four times a week, two longer runs and two shorter runs. Sunita qualified for the marathon when she ran a 3:29:57 in the Houston Marathon last year, 2006.

Biggest challenge

Sunita’s biggest challenge running in space will be staying harnessed to a specially designed treadmill with bungee cords.

Ms.Williams says running on the TVIS (Treadmill Vibration Isolation System) can sometimes be uncomfortable. The machinery puts a strain on the runner’s hips and shoulders.

Race organisers say this will be their first satellite venture, and they are thrilled about it.

‘Sunita running 26.2 miles [42 165km] in space on Patriots’ Day is really a tribute to the thousands of marathoners who are running here on Earth. She is pioneering new frontiers in the running world,’ said Jack Fleming of the Boston Athletic Association.

Meanwhile, besides getting ready for the race, Sunita joins Expedition 15 from Expedition 14, while Spaceflight Participant Charles Simonyi leaves for home on 2007-04-20 with Expedition 14 Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mr. Mikhail Tyurin.

Mr.Lopez-Alegria, who came to the station on 2006-09, continuously sets new US single spaceflight duration records.

Break records

Ms.Williams is likely to break Mr.Lopez-Alegria’s record with her return tentatively planned for 2007-08 after serving as an E15 crew member for the early part of that increment.

Science continues aboard the ISS as crew members are working on experiments to understand the potential for decompression sickness among spacewalkers and to understand the effect of long-duration spaceflight on a crew member’s ability to pilot a spacecraft.

Among experiments getting crew attention were ‘Bioemulsion‘, a Russian effort to develop technology to produce micro-organisms safely for bacterial, fermental and medical preparations.

Mr.Tyurin worked with that experiment onTuesday.

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