Student Researchers Test Heart Monitor for Astronauts in Near-Zero-Gravity

When people go into space, the reduced gravity can weaken the heart's ability to pump hard in response to a crisis. Stanford University student researchers are developing a simple device to monitor an astronaut's heart function. The initial prototype uses a commercial bathroom scale, with some added low-cost electronics to increase its sensitivity and home in on the ballistocardiograph signal. The students worked with NASA's Flight Opportunities Program and Reduced Gravity Office to successfully demonstrate the technology on a modified Boeing 727, operated by Zero Gravity Corporation, that is used to produce short periods of weightlessness. The so-called vomit comet climbs to an altitude of about 34,000 feet and then nosedives for 10,000 feet.