COLBERT Treadmill Long SF History

The COLBERT treadmill will fly into space this summer to the ISS. The cleverly-acronymed device (it stands for Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill) lets NASA end their contest to name the newest space station module without offending Stephen Colbert's many fans. Node 3 will officially be named Tranquility.


(Node 3 now named Tranquility)

The new treadmill closely resembles the one shown below, which uses a special harness to keep the astronaut pinned to the moving surface even in the freefall of near earth orbit.


(Node 3 now named Tranquility)

The need to exercise in space, and devices to help people do it, has a rather long history in science fiction. In his 1953 novel Space Tug, Murray Leinster writes about a gravity-simulator harness:

"When we got back," Joe told Brown, "we were practically invalids. No exercise up here. This time we've brought some harness to wear. We've some for you, too..." Joe got out the gravity-simulator harnesses. He showed Brent how they worked. Brown hadn't official instructions to order their use, but Joe put one on himself, set for full Earth-gravity simulation.

He couldn't imitate actual gravity, of course. Only the effect of gravity on one's muscles. There were springs and elastic webbing pulling one's shoulders and feet together, so that it was as much effort to stand extended—with one's legs straight out—as to stand upright on Earth. Joe felt better with a pull on his body.
(Read more about Leinster's gravity-simulator harness)

Heinlein fans recall that in his novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, the loonies heading toward Earth need to start exercising to survive the harsh gravitational field of our planet.

Had to squeeze in hours of heavy exercise, wearing weights, and dasn't arrange permission to use centrifuge at Complex, one used by earthworm scientists to stretch time in Luna...

Exercising without centrifuge is less efficient and was especially boring because did not know there would be a need for it...

Many sf fans also recall the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey in which Frank Poole gets some exercise by jogging within the turning living space of the Discovery space craft.


(Frank Poole goes jogging)

Can anyone find an earlier reference to the idea that an exercise device would be needed to counteract the effects of weightlessness earlier than 1953?

From CollectSpace.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/15/2009)

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