Astronomy Helping humans walk on Mars

Helping humans walk on Mars

A new study to increase understanding of how conditions in space affect astronauts’ proprioception, or movement sense, will help humans walk on Mars.

Researchers at the University of Canberra are working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to examine how time in space can dull this sense, making it challenging to stand or walk.

Astronauts are known to suffer a variety of health issues after spending time away from the earth in microgravity.

“When astronauts reach Mars after months of space travel, NASA is going to need them to be able to stand, walk and start their work straight away,” said UC Professor Gordon Waddington.

“We have experts from NASA who will work with us on this project and adapt our findings to their astronaut training.”

The space agency sought out the University for its work on proprioception and has already installed equipment developed in Canberra at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where astronauts are trained.

“We want to gain a better understanding of how proprioception works, since it’s one of the least understood human senses and it affects so much of our lives, from standing and walking to using tools and machines,” Professor Waddington said.

The project is led by Bachelor of Physiotherapy honours student Ashleigh Marchant, who is looking for research participants.

“This is perhaps the closest many of us will get to contributing to the mission to send humans to Mars and it all stems from understanding a sense we are always using without knowing it,” Ms Marchant said.

Read more about proprioception and the NASA-backed study here. Story credit: University of Canberra newsroom.

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