BACKGROUND: Exposure to prolonged periods in microgravity is associated with deconditioning of the musculoskeletal system due to chronic changes in mechanical stimulation. Given astronauts will operate on the Lunar surface for extended periods of time, it is critical to quantify both external (e.g., ground reaction forces) and internal (e.g., joint reaction forces) loads of relevant movements performed during Lunar missions. Such knowledge is key to predict musculoskeletal deconditioning and determine appropriate exercise countermeasures associated with extended exposure to hypogravity.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this paper is to define an experimental protocol and methodology suitable to estimate in high-fidelity hypogravity conditions the lower limb internal joint reaction forces. State-of-the-art movement kinetics, kinematics, muscle activation and muscle-tendon unit behaviour during locomotor and plyometric movements will be collected and used as inputs (Objective 1), with musculoskeletal modelling and an optimisation framework used to estimate lower limb internal joint loading (Objective 2).

METHODS: Twenty-six healthy participants will be recruited for this cross-sectional study. Participants will walk, skip and run, at speeds ranging between 0.56-3.6 m/s, and perform plyometric movement trials at each gravity level (1, 0.7, 0.5, 0.38, 0.27 and 0.16g) in a randomized order. Through the collection of state-of-the-art kinetics, kinematics, muscle activation and muscle-tendon behaviour, a musculoskeletal modelling framework will be used to estimate lower limb joint reaction forces via tracking simulations.

CONCLUSION: The results of this study will provide first estimations of internal musculoskeletal loads associated with human movement performed in a range of hypogravity levels. Thus, our unique data will be a key step towards modelling the musculoskeletal deconditioning associated with long term habitation on the Lunar surface, and thereby aiding the design of Lunar exercise countermeasures and mitigation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPloS one
Issue number11 November
Pages (from-to)e0278051
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 23.11.2022


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