Using 3D Cameras to Combat Muscle Atrophy for Astronauts

July 21, 2020

Being weightless in space with the ability to float around a spacecraft is something many people can only dream of experiencing firsthand. What individuals might not consider is that when muscles don’t have to work for a period of time, like in microgravity, they will deteriorate. It’s similar to patients who’ve undergone a surgery and are bedridden for weeks. Getting back on their feet and building up their strength and muscle mass takes work and usually physical therapy assistance. Now, magnify that timeframe to three years, the time it will take a crew to journey roundtrip to Mars. This will be the longest manned space mission ever. The astronauts onboard will likely experience a significant loss of muscle and bone mass. In fact, prior research shows that a microgravity environment can cause a loss of over 30% of muscle mass in less than 6 months.

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) want to help mitigate that risk. Supported by TRISH, John Shepherd and his research team at the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center are working on their project, Astro-3DO, which will use 3D optical cameras to measure the body shape and mass composition of astronauts in space. Using knowledge gained from previous cancer research, the project aims to help lessen the debilitating loss of muscle and bone mass during long-duration space flights and gain a better understanding of how muscle deterioration can impact human longevity.

More on Using 3D Cameras to Combat Muscle Atrophy for Astronauts

Dr. John Shepherd talks about the Astro3DO study