American astronaut, Sunita Williams, has given a whole new meaning to the term “space race.”
On Sept. 16, she became the first astronaut to ever complete a triathlon in space: running, biking, and swimming aboard the International Space Station and into the zero-gravity record books. She carried out the feat on a set of special exercise machines that help astronauts fight the withering effects of zero-g on bones and muscle mass.
To start, she “swam” half a mile on an Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED), a machine introduced by NASA in 2008. Resembling a manufacturing tool from the future, the ARED uses vacuum cylinders to create resistance, allowing an astronaut to work every major muscle group at once.
Next, Williams cycled 18 miles on a stationary bike. Unlike most stationary bikes, the one aboard the ISS includes a harness and toe buckles to keep riders from floating away.
The final stage of the race, a 4-mile run, was completed on a treadmill. Unlike the ARED or the stationary bike, the ISS’s treadmill isn’t connected to the station. It hovers in space, keeping the station’s total weight down and limiting vibrations that could otherwise damage the station’s electronics.
Williams completed the triathlon in 1 hour, 48 minutes and 33 seconds. Now that’s extreme endurance — at a very high level.