Space Exercise Bike Breaks Down
The space shuttle exercise bike, or cycle ergometer, on Discovery is similar to this one used by Endeavour shuttle pilot Eric Boe during a Nov. 2008 spaceflight.
Credit: NASA.

The zero gravity exercise bike is broken aboard NASA?s space shuttle Discovery.

The annoying glitch has stymied repair efforts by the seven astronauts aboard Discovery, especially since the stationary bicycle can be a challenge to set up in the shuttle?s cramped quarters. The shuttle is due to dock at the International Space Station later today at 5:13 p.m. EDT (2113 GMT).

?It?s a kind of cycle in the middeck that we all use to keep in shape,? shuttle astronaut John Phillips said late Monday after trying to get the space bike up and running. ?It?s quite a piece of work to get it put together.?

But after assembling the exercise bike, known in NASA parlance the ?cycle ergometer,? Phillips and his crewmates found its pedals stuck fast.

?Basically the exercise bike is jammed,? shuttle flight director Paul Dye told reporters late Monday. ?We?re in the very early stages of looking for a fix, but I?m pretty confident that we can fix that.?

Discovery is carrying a $298 million set of U.S. solar arrays to the International Space Station to complete the outpost?s power grid. Three spacewalks and a one-astronaut crew swap at the station are planned for the 13-day mission.

Dye said the bicycle glitch is a minor malfunction and that Discovery has other exercise equipment to make sure the shuttle astronauts can keep their muscles strong in space.

NASA has long known that the muscles and bones of astronauts in space weaken over time since they don?t have to work against the pull of Earth?s gravity when floating in weightlessness. Aboard the space station, astronauts have to work out about two hours every day to maintain their muscle strength during six-month spaceflights.

Aside from Discovery?s broken bike, shuttle astronauts can use a set of bungee-like resistance bands to work out, or use the station?s gym. They would have the pick of the station?s treadmill, exercise bike or resistance-based exercise gear, the latest delivered during a shuttle flight last November.

?They?ve got different exercise equipment aboard the station that we can look at possibly using,? Dye said. ?So even if this ergometer is jammed up, the folks will still be able to get some exercise while they?re on orbit. I?m not seeing this as a problem.?

SPACE.com is providing continuous coverage of STS-119 with reporter Clara Moskowitz and senior editor Tariq Malik in New York. Click here for mission updates and SPACE.com's live NASA TV video feed.

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