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NASA Space Science

Astronaut to Run the Boston Marathon From Space 176

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the space-racing dept.
BostonBehindTheScenes writes "American astronaut Sunita Williams will run 26.2 miles on a treadmill on Patriot's Day (April 16th for those of you outside of Massachusetts) while runners on the ground will compete in the 111th Boston Marathon, according to this New Scientist article. And yes, she is an actual registered participant who qualified by finishing among the top 100 women in the Houston Marathon in 2006. NASA's press release touts this as yet another space first."
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Astronaut to Run the Boston Marathon From Space

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  • Pork. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Morky (577776) on Friday March 30, 2007 @07:32AM (#18541423)
    I protest! She is wasting precious oxygen paid for by you the taxpayer.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by arivanov (12034)
      And when exactly did the US taxpayers pay for the environmental control module and its shipment to orbit?

      Hint - it is one of the non-US components.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Sobrique (543255)
        Parent post didn't mention the US at any point. Or does the fact that it might be a european taxpayer make it all ok?
        • Re:Pork. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by arivanov (12034) on Friday March 30, 2007 @08:55AM (#18541977) Homepage
          That should actually be the Russian taxpayer (primary life support is provided by the Zvezda module). And I do not particularly recall any historical period when the rulers of Russia gave a flying fuck about their cittizen's thoughts on governmental spending. In fact, modern Russian state is founded on government diverting taxation money from where it is supposed to go. That what Ivan Kalita (the Wallet) did to start the second Russian state and the tradition has carried on from there onwards.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bhsurfer (539137)
            Funny (or not), you've pretty accurately described the American government's thoughts on spending as well.
        • Re:Pork. (Score:5, Funny)

          by GreyPoopon (411036) <gpoopon@RABBITgmail.com minus herbivore> on Friday March 30, 2007 @08:56AM (#18541985)

          Or does the fact that it might be a european taxpayer make it all ok?

          Speaking as an American, I'm perfectly happy to let the Europeans pay my taxes. *duck*
      • by khallow (566160)
        Hint it is one of the Russian components paid for (including launch costs) indirectly by NASA through a prime contractor.
    • by Migraineman (632203) on Friday March 30, 2007 @10:02AM (#18542701)
      The ISS is moving at 7.726 km/s (I checked this morning - I'm running Orbitron to track a different satellite [navy.mil].) 26.2 miles converts to 42.165 km, so she should traverse the course length in about 5.5 seconds.

      How many steps does it take to complete a marathon from low earth orbit? A one ... a two ... a three. Three.
    • I know you're post was, presumably, intended to be funny (or maybe not), but the way to use the least oxygen is to stay still, and let your muscles slowly atropy. One of the necessities of prolonged space travel is the need to keep in shape, if for no other reason than to be ready for the eventual return. This kills two birds with one stone, so to speak.
  • by F-3582 (996772) on Friday March 30, 2007 @07:34AM (#18541425)
    Physiologically speaking, you don't have any gravity for your blood stream, specifically your heart, to handle. In my opinion you can't compare such a run to a real one!
    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday March 30, 2007 @07:41AM (#18541463) Journal
      Lighten up. I seriously doubt her numbers will be "official". She is running on a treadmill in zero G. It is publicity for the Boston Marathon, and likely good physiological research for NASA.
      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Freefall, not zero-G.
        • by khallow (566160) on Friday March 30, 2007 @08:20AM (#18541683)
          It's called zero gee by the people who fly people into space and refers to the acceleration of the astronaut's frame of reference. Freefall without rotation is a zero gee environment. Good enough for me even though technically the astronauts live in a 10^-3 or 10^-4 gee environment due to tidal forces and the mass of the ISS.
          • Well, the fact that the astronaut's frame of reference is *rotating* in orbit around the earth should tell you everything you need to know about whether it's accelerating or not.
            • by khallow (566160)
              But it's not from the astronaut's point of view. In other words, the astronaut experiences no force. Hence, they are in zero gee. I really don't see a need to continue this pedantic argument. As I understand it, both terms are used routinely to describe activities in orbit.
          • by Teancum (67324)
            Of course the "microgravity" caused by the mass of the station itself is enough to have a significant impact on some experiments on the ISS, and is one of the reasons why some argue that it is a waste of money to even build the contraption (meaning the ISS) at least if you are going to use the science generated by the ISS as a rationale for continued funding.

            About the only people who use the term "Zero G" is one particular for-profit company doing simulated "weightlessness" and media/PR types.
            • by khallow (566160)
              Who are they kidding? The ISS gravity environment is pretty good given that you have researchers right next to the experiment. And just because a small number of experiments are too sensitive for the ISS doesn't mean much. I'd say a better rationale is that the ISS costs about 3-5 times as much as it should have and the science it is expected to do is lower value in comparison.
              • by Teancum (67324)
                As I was saying, this was but one of the reasons why the ISS is bad for science. Cost is certainly a factor, as is cross-contamination from other experiments due to the tight quarters. Even the regular "dockings" from the unmaned supply vessels and crew exchanges also cause additional problems, and of course at the moment that construction on the thing is still on-going. I could go on and on, but the ISS is a horrible science platform. There are good reasons to have the ISS, but NASA doesn't want to sel
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by tverbeek (457094)
          In this context, the unit "G" refers to the amount of force applied to the body by the craft it's in (jet, rocket, centrifuge, roller coaster, etc), not a measure of gravitational attraction or acceleration. (Save the pendantry for topics in which you are better informed than your peers.)
          • by Teancum (67324)
            Other than accounting for jitter due to mechanical travel, acceleration due to changes in direction (typical for an aircraft) or raw acceleration (like in a rocket) are indistinguishable from that caused by gravity. Indeed relativistic effects caused by acceleration are also identical if you are talking about moving in a rocket or standing on a "solid" body like the Earth.

            Obviously the "relative" distance and velocity are different if you are talking "true" acceleration, but that is exactly where the seman
        • by AK Marc (707885)
          What's the acceleration between her and the floor she is on? It is zero, so she is in zero-G. She is also weightless. Whether or not you want to argue about whether the craft she is in is in freefall or zero-G is a separate issue than what she is experiencing. And no one said "zero gravity." That is a condition that can not exist. There is no distance one can go where gravity ceases to exist. However, since it is necessarily wrong, one can also take the line that it is presumed to be either an approx
      • by martin-boundary (547041) on Friday March 30, 2007 @08:24AM (#18541717)
        Sometimes great publicity ideas can backfire. I hope they thought about attaching a dynamo and lightbulb combo to the threadmill, it's pretty dark up there in space and the worst thing would be if she tripped up and started falling continuously towards the earth....
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday (582209)

        and likely good physiological research for NASA.

        Sure the astronauts have to do SOMETHING to kill time on the ISS, but I hope Nasa doesn't launch into some sappy ploy about how this is advancing science - unless it is actually true.

        Jokes about taxpayer-funded oxygen aside, the US is paying about $4BN per year [wikipedia.org] for the ISS (including its share of the Shuttle). Assume (generously) that of the 3 people aboard, 2 are Americans. That works out to $3,800 per person per minute, or just slightly under $1 milli

        • by Intron (870560)
          "So you tell me, what will we get for our million dollars?"

          5,662nd place
        • by mjpaci (33725) *
          4 hour marathon? Suni is 41 years old. In order to qualify for the Boston Marathon she would have had to run it is 3:50:00 or less.
          see: here [baa.org]

          (By the way, she is bib # 11469. I wonder if she has her official bib and Champion Chips (that that the chip would do much good...)
          • No. Due to space shuttle delays they were unable to send it up for her. They did sent her an email to "print out" her own bib.
  • MOM! (Score:5, Funny)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Friday March 30, 2007 @07:34AM (#18541427) Homepage
    Moooooommm, Sunie's hogging all the oxygen again!

    Sunie, Cut it out. Don't antaonize your sister.

    But, I gotta win the maaarathonn.

    Well, do it quietly, dear. Your sister has experiments to conduct.
  • Treadmill vs road (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Liquid Len (739188) on Friday March 30, 2007 @07:35AM (#18541431)
    Yes, I know this is Slashdot. But I'm a geek and a passionate marathon runner as well...
    There's a big difference between running on a treadmill and on a road (besides the boring factor): the relative wind resistance you experience when you move has a very significant impact on your speed. A rule of thumb is that you have to subtract about 1 km/h to your treadmill speed in order to have an idea on how fast you can go on the road.
    • Re:Not to mention... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Lord Bitman (95493) on Friday March 30, 2007 @07:43AM (#18541473) Homepage
      moving all your mass forward/uphill vs basically just bouncing up and down. And of course, in space, you don't even have the resistance of bouncing up and down.
      • Re:Not to mention... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rly2000 (779141) on Friday March 30, 2007 @08:28AM (#18541751) Homepage

        She's going to have tethers to keep her down. As a runner, I think it would be an interesting approximation of running.

        While the impact against the treadmill could well be compared to gravity, I wonder whether the zero-gravity will make it harder for her heart to pump blood to her legs. I couldn't imagine running upside down.

        Also, having run on the treadmill, I think a good approximation of running outside would be to set the incline to about 1.5%. Of course, that starts to disproportionately work out your quads as opposed to your hamstrings.

        • Nahh. There won't be the gravity to hold it down at her feet: it'll be free to return to her heart, minus friction losses.

          It's still a long way to run on the treadmill, though.
      • by oni (41625) on Friday March 30, 2007 @09:00AM (#18542017) Homepage
        in space, you don't even have the resistance of bouncing up and down.

        I don't think that resistance is quite the right word, but I agree with you in general - what she's doing shouldn't qualify as running the marathon. The biggest problem with long-term space travel is bone loss, and NASA has already proven that just tethering a person to a treadmil and letting them exercise doesn't fix the problem. They still lose bone mass. That's all the proof I need that what she's doing isn't the same as running on earth.

        Still, there is a bright side to this. This might just be the longest run on a treadmill in zero-g. And since she has run marathons on the ground, she will be in a good position to report what the differences are and maybe this will lead to better zero-g exercise equipment.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Yes, I know this is Slashdot. But I'm a geek and a passionate marathon runner as well... There's a big difference between running on a treadmill and on a road (besides the boring factor): the relative wind resistance you experience when you move has a very significant impact on your speed. A rule of thumb is that you have to subtract about 1 km/h to your treadmill speed in order to have an idea on how fast you can go on the road.

      I run as well (and cycle), and there's just no comparison. Treadmill surface

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        4 Degrees? haven't you been to the gym, or watched Rocky IV? They go a bit more than 4 degrees. While I admit that actual running on actual hills it a lot harder on you, if you happen to live where there only is flat land, then the treadmill may be the best hill you have.
        • 4 Degrees? haven't you been to the gym, or watched Rocky IV? They go a bit more than 4 degrees. While I admit that actual running on actual hills it a lot harder on you, if you happen to live where there only is flat land, then the treadmill may be the best hill you have.

          I don't run indoors. Too damned depressing. Also, all the Rocky movies after the first sucked. And I do live in a fairly hilly area, with some 20-30 degree hills, and I haven't seen the treadmill yet that can do that.

    • by Dolohov (114209)
      On the other hand, running on a road lets the air current pull away the cloud of hot air and humidity that surrounds a runner. On a treadmill she'll have her own little bit of hell, with the air warmed up to body temperature and a little raincloud of sweat droplets. So it may not be harder, but I'm betting it's a lot less pleasant. (I pity the other astronauts who want to use that room...)
    • Re:Treadmill vs road (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Don_dumb (927108) on Friday March 30, 2007 @08:07AM (#18541587)
      Also being a runner and gymrat I have to disagree, I can run long distance fine, but simply cant stay on a treadmill for more than a few miles. There are really two reasons for this -

      The first is that I (and many I know) find my actual running style is different on a treadmill than 'self-propelled'.
      Second is the physcological factors - the fact that when out running, my mind has to do a certain amount of work paying attention to where I am going, the surface, other road/pavement users etc this means consiously I can 'turn-off', whereas on a treadmill I need to think about something, and even though the treadmills at my gym have TVs and they might even be showing something I am interested in, I still spend a great deal of time looking around, still in 'vigilant mode'; The fact that I *can* step off at any time, ultimately means that after 4 or 5 miles I *will* just do that, when you are 5 miles from home, you just keep going, you can stop but you still have to at least walk home -so I keep running.

      The other factor that would make a treadmill marathon more difficult is the lack of crowd, people cheering on and other runners really do spur you on when things get tough.
      • Don't forget she is doing this in MicroGravity as well. I think it is more of a symbolic thing then actual. If she does win I am sure she will get mention but the person who ran the race for real would get the tophy and such.
      • by geekoid (135745)
        YOUr an exception.

        treadmills take less energy to use then running. That, no gravity, and have vry clean air will make a marathon on the treadmill much easier.

        I would wager if your goal was marathon distance on a treadmill, and you were being watched, you could probably give it a damn good try.

        • by Don_dumb (927108)
          Did you even read my post?
          I assume your not a runner because you would know that (as I stated in my parent post) that distance running is as much if not more to do with psychology than simple physics. And anyway I did also point out that a find that my running style (and quite possibly therefore my efficiency) is different on a treadmill.

          But considering you are such an expert how about this -
          YOU do a marathon on a treadmill, I will do the New York marathon on the streets of New York, because I know that r
      • by jfengel (409917)
        My problem with treadmills is that I have to pay too much attention to them. Maybe I just need better treadmills, but I find that the ones I've used require me to keep too steady a pace to keep me from creeping forward or falling back. As a marathoner I find it's very useful to vary my speed to shift the work to various muscle groups differently. It's all subconscious, and watching to prevent that from happening is exhausting.

        Besides, outside is so much prettier.
        • by Don_dumb (927108)
          Yeah, I forgot that as well, often I either find myself falling off the back or running into the front of the treadmill. I was running a half marathon last week and the pace makers I was using would often go 20-30m ahead of me and then I would pull back with them. Treadmills require a conscious and deliberate change of pace that is much harder than the natural run.
        • by Kelbear (870538)
          This has been a great enabler for me. One of the problems with my incredibly bad running ability is difficulty in pacing myself.

          I run too hard and fast for my body to support and I find that I can't keep running for more than a few minutes before I need to slow down and catch my breath. My pace keeps creeping up faster and faster because I'm too impatient. On the treadmill I can adjust speed in small steady increments so that I can run at the fastest pace that I can maintain without having to take breaks be
          • by jfengel (409917)
            Different running styles encourage different tools, apparently. I have exactly the opposite problem: I start slow, then taper off. It makes me a fine marathoner (as long as I don't want to win), but I look like a lumbering ox in any distance shorter than that. I look like a lumbering ox at any distance, but there's at least some respect for somebody who can lumber 26.2 miles.

            In fact I'm training for an ultra now, which may suit my running style even better.
      • by garcia (6573)
        Second is the physcological factors - the fact that when out running, my mind has to do a certain amount of work paying attention to where I am going, the surface, other road/pavement users etc this means consiously I can 'turn-off', whereas on a treadmill I need to think about something, and even though the treadmills at my gym have TVs and they might even be showing something I am interested in, I still spend a great deal of time looking around, still in 'vigilant mode'; The fact that I *can* step off at
        • by Don_dumb (927108)
          Sorry, perhaps I didn't make it clear, I find running long distance outside is easier because you do 'switch-off'
      • by slutdot (207042)
        I have to agree with you on this one. As a runner, I simply cannot run in the gym for any extended periods of time. In fact, I tried to run 5 miles last night on the treadmill and my heart rate is elevated due to the heat in the gym. I was running about about 90% of my LTHR after only 2 miles; normally, I run at about 75% when I'm outside. I gave up at the 4th mile because I got sick of slowing down to keep my heart rate in check. I ended up running another 2 outdoors when I got home from the gym.
    • by Quarters (18322) on Friday March 30, 2007 @08:14AM (#18541649)
      She'll already be moving close to 17500 mph. How much more of a headwind do you want her to have?
    • by envelope (317893)
      I tend to run a lot faster on the treadmill than I do on the road, mostly because I'm sofa king bored that I try to hurry up as much as possible to reach my mileage goal.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Lumpy (12016)
      you think that's a difference. try it in zero G.

      I dare you to run on a real road in Zero G. I bet you cant make it past the first step!
    • Not to mention the fact that she will not be dealing with the same level of gravity as the runners on Earth. Sure, she may be tethered to the treadmill, but it will not be comparable. It will still be a significant feat, but I do not believe she should be credited with participation in the Boston Marathon since she is running under such disperate conditions.
    • by giminy (94188)
      A rule of thumb is that you have to subtract about 1 km/h to your treadmill speed in order to have an idea on how fast you can go on the road.

      Also remember the obvious gravitational difference. When running in free-fall, I can push off the ground and coast 26.2 miles in a single step. A major resistance in running comes from gravity, because we have to bend our legs to buckle to gravity somewhat, and then straighten them to counteract gravity again. That takes a lot of energy over a marathon. The only
  • In fact, she weighs next to nothing.

    HAND.
  • by sycodon (149926) on Friday March 30, 2007 @07:40AM (#18541459)
    ...like a locker room.
    • I am sure it already does
      • by geekoid (135745)
        Actually it doesn't. It's filtering system is excellent.

        According to some astronauts, anyways.

        In fact, a Russian smuggled a ciderette on board and lit it up. While it did take 2 weeks to get it cmpletly filtered, the smell is gone.

  • Patriots' Day (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 30, 2007 @07:42AM (#18541467)
    For the unaware, Patriots' Day commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord which are considered to be the first skirmishes of the American Revolution, a conflict that was actually fought be people generally considered to be patriots.

    We in Massachusetts have been observing this day long before a certain President co-opted the name to add a bit of jingo to the commemoration of a certain day in September.
    • We in Massachusetts have been observing this day long before a certain President co-opted the name to add a bit of jingo to the commemoration of a certain day in September.
      It's also a state holiday in Maine, which was part of Massachusetts until 1820. That should be another good hint about how long ago the holiday was created.
    • by RomulusNR (29439)
      iawtc. mpu. tia. hand. etc.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday March 30, 2007 @07:42AM (#18541469) Homepage
    Will she be wearing diapers?!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Of course, how else do you think she's going to last several hours without going to the bathroom?

      Have you never driven a long trip with a women in your car? *sigh*

  • by Bazman (4849) on Friday March 30, 2007 @07:47AM (#18541493) Journal

    Can you imagine if JFK was president now? "We choose to run on the space treadmill and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are publicity stunts!".

  • In the same way that with a webcam, you don't need to be on-hand (or on anything else) to contribute to a bukkake.
  • by symes (835608) on Friday March 30, 2007 @08:02AM (#18541563) Journal
    Seriously, what would our outer-space neighbours think if they picked that moment to swing by and pay us a visit? They're just going to scratch their heads and think we're some backwards species that powers space flight by putting funny sweaty little creatures on treadmills!
  • NASA confirms that Rosie Ruiz [wikipedia.org] has stowed away on a Soyuz supply ship scheduled to dock with the ISS just before the end of the marathon.
  • No mention of The Flash's time traveling space treadmill?
  • Will she overheat? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by giafly (926567) on Friday March 30, 2007 @09:03AM (#18542053)
    No gravity means no convection. No headwind means little conduction.
    Will they generate an artificial headwind using a fan, or does the International Space Station have powerful air conditioning already?
    • If by "powerful air conditioning" you mean being surrounded by the, near absolute zero, vaccuum of space, then yes it does. All they have to do if she starts to overheat is crack a window. ;-)

      -GameMaster
  • Having done the Boston Marathon, I'm curious how she plans on emulating the experience of Heart Break Hill [boston.com].
  • What would be cool is if they had her treadmill linked to a robotic proxy on earth that would follow the marathon route with the real runners.
  • ...at 17500mph she should cross at about the 5.35 second mark.
  • by steelerguy (172075) on Friday March 30, 2007 @10:32AM (#18543093) Homepage
    It looks like I will be running the marathon on my couch and quit possibly in my bed also, probably won't be doing too much running either, but hey...at least I am participating in the Boston Marathon (even though I not in the correct city or state or registered or even running).
  • On the other hand she has to 'run' about 60000 miles. They should have made it walkathon they could made up NASA's whole budget for the year.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday March 30, 2007 @11:41AM (#18544041)
    Many of the popular marathons in the US have same-day events in Iraq. Sometimes the courses are pretty cramped and soldiers do many laps. Probably good for morale.
  • Of course, you realize that since there's a runner running the Boston Marathon in space, all normal space travel routes will have to be closed, satellites will need to be stopped for several hours or directed in long, convoluted, indirect routes to their destinations - and even then possibly get "stuck" somewhere, unable to proceed until the marathon's over - and any orbiting satellites trapped by this process will be subject to ticketing by the Boston Police for parking violations.
  • Didn't realize they had enough time to run 26 miles on station. Suppose they could learn about metabolism that way.

3500 Calories = 1 Food Pound

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