The Loh Down On Science

Flex-O-Skeleton

Iron Man for a day?  Sign me up!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Scientists at NASA are developing a robotic external skeleton for astronauts. Why?  To allow astronauts to move more steadily in low-gravity surface walks, like Neil Armstrong's moonwalk.

Plus, prolonged exposure to microgravity can cause muscles to rapidly degrade. So the X1 exoskeleton will also provide resistance exercise, which is vital to maintaining muscular health. Long-term occupants of the International Space Station will appreciate that.

The 57-pound X1 straps to legs and has an over-the-shoulder harness. Thanks to 10 moveable joints, it offers the wearer a great deal of mobility.

Back on terra firma, the possibilities of the X1 are even more interesting. Not only does it provide structural support, but its motors grant the wearer increased strength and torque. That's why it's being tested as a way to help paraplegics walk again.

It may not fly or shoot repulsor beams, but a robotic suit that can help astronauts walk on asteroids . . . and help the disabled walk?

Go science!

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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