Old-school contraptions still work for weighing astronauts | Science News


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50 Years Ago

Old-school contraptions still work for weighing astronauts

Without gravity, measurement relies on body’s effect on mechanical oscillations

7:00am, September 22, 2016
Andre Kuipers

SPACE BOUNCE  Aboard the International Space Station, astronaut Andre Kuipers measures his weight using the pogo-stick-like Body Mass Measurement Device, which uses spring oscillations to determine mass.

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New method to measure mass in space devised — A scale for measuring weight in space that does not depend upon the attraction of gravity has been devised.... In [William Thornton’s] method, the weight of the mass is determined [by] mechanically oscillating a weight in a tray. The heavier the mass, the slower the oscillation rate. The scale is tied to an electronic unit measuring the time required for five cycles of oscillation. A reference to a chart gives the mass’s weight. Science News, October 1, 1966 


Not much has changed. The International Space Station has two spring-based contraptions for weighing in astronauts. An individual rides the Body Mass Measurement Device like a pogo stick — in four or five bounces, it calculates weight. The Space Linear Acceleration Mass Measurement Device uses springs to pull an astronaut; the acceleration reveals weight. In 2012, researchers in Europe experimented with compact computer imaging technology — developed for video games — using photos to estimate mass based on a person’s shape and size.

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