NASA develops exoskeleton for astronauts, paraplegics

Project engineer Shelley Rea demonstrates the X1 Robotic Exoskeleton. (NASA/Robert Markowitz/HO)

Project engineer Shelley Rea demonstrates the X1 Robotic Exoskeleton. (NASA/Robert Markowitz/HO)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:05 PM ET

NASA has developed a robotic exoskeleton designed to help astronauts walk on other planets and paraplegics walk on Earth.

Called the X1, the suit will be used to help astronauts maintain muscle strength in low-gravity by supplying resistance against leg movement.

For people with disabilities, it could potentially be used in reverse, possibly helping people to walk for the very first time, NASA says.

"Without taking up valuable space or weight during missions, X1 could replicate common crew exercises, which are vital to keeping astronauts healthy in microgravity. In addition, the device has the ability to measure, record and stream back, in real-time, data to flight controllers on Earth, giving doctors better feedback on the impact of the crew's exercise regimen," NASA said in a press release.

The X1, which NASA compares to Iron Man's power suit, is an offshoot of technology developed for the Robonaut 2, a robot astronaut aboard the International Space Station.

"Robotics is playing a key role aboard the International Space Station and will continue to be critical as we move toward human exploration of deep space," said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's space technology program.

"What's extraordinary about space technology and our work with projects like Robonaut are the unexpected possibilities space tech spinoffs may have right here on Earth. It's exciting to see a NASA-developed technology that might one day help people with serious ambulatory needs begin to walk again, or even walk for the first time. That's the sort of return on investment NASA is proud to give back to America and the world."

The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, which developed the suit alongside NASA, will try to apply the technology on Earth.

"We greatly value our collaboration with NASA," director and CEO Ken Ford said. "The X1's high-performance capabilities will enable IHMC to continue performing cutting-edge research in mobility assistance while expanding into the field of rehabilitation."

The device, which is still in the research and development phase, was created with the help of engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston, Texas.


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