Astronauts May Moonwalk Faster Than Expected, NASA Finds

The bounding gait used by astronauts on the moon is more the result of restrictive spacesuits than the low gravity up there, new research suggests. NASA's John De Witt led a study, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, looking at walking and running speeds in normal and lunar gravity by putting a few astronauts and other test subjects in the DC-9 "Vomit Comet," an aircraft used for for zero- and low-G testing. It goes into a controlled freefall high in the air, then recovers, climbs and does it again — hard on the stomach, but useful for research.

De Witt's team tested to find the speed at which the subjects transitioned from a walk to a run while at 1/6th gravity — normally between 4 and 5 mph on Earth. They guessed that it would be much slower in theory than reality, about 1.8 mph — but it was actually 3.1 mph, much closer to a terrestrial transition speed than expected. That means that getting around on the moon was probably slow and weird more because of the bulky spacesuits worn for extra-vehicular activities and not any fundamental gravitational conflict with human anatomy. Slimmer, more flexible spacesuits should result in a great improvement in agility on future missions.

MTP Archive: Why it’s Worth Going to the Moon 1:28



—Devin Coldewey