Space Station Gets Treadmill

Saturday, September 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) — The crew of space shuttle Atlantis installed a treadmill aboard the international space station on Saturday, the men's last major task inside the orbiting complex.

The seven-member crew also began wrapping up the transfer and stowage of some 6,000 pounds of supplies and equipment for the station's first permanent residents, who are due to arrive in November.

``Just working as a team, we've been able to get everything accomplished that we set out to do up here,'' said shuttle pilot Scott Altman.

At the launch site in Cape Canaveral, Fla., meanwhile, NASA began taking precautions to guard against Tropical Storm Gordon, out in the Gulf of Mexico and headed toward the state's west coast.

The storm could force NASA to move space shuttle Discovery off its seaside launch pad and into its hangar. Discovery is scheduled to blast off on a space-station construction mission on Oct. 5.

Altman, astronaut Edward Lu and cosmonaut Boris Morukov had to fit the space station treadmill — about the size of a four-drawer file cabinet — into a pit in the floor of the Russian service module Zvezda. They hit a small snag early on, having some trouble getting a mounting pin to fit, but Mission Control figured out a solution.

No off-the-rack treadmill, this one was designed so that an astronaut running on it would not transfer any vibrations to the station's structure. The purpose — to keep intact any sensitive microgravity experiments. Vibrations would skew the data from the experiments, which will be performed throughout the space station.

The treadmill vibration isolation system includes a frame of guy wires, bungee cords and computer-controlled dampening mechanisms. The complexity of the system made for intricate work in installing the machine, and it took the three men almost all day to complete the job, NASA said.

``There were a lot of pieces,'' space station lead flight director Mark Ferring said.

Astronauts must exercise while in orbit to prevent their muscles from atrophying in the weightless environment. The station's first permanent crew, an American and two Russians due for a four-month stay, will be the first to use the treadmill.

Atlantis' crew has just one more day inside the station, and they'll spend it getting ready to leave.

``That's going to take the lion's share of the day,'' Ferring said.

The crew will seal up the station on Sunday, with undocking planned for around midnight EDT.

Atlantis is due back on Earth early Wednesday.