Running in Space

A local design firm gives astronauts an athletic edge.

By Kasey Cordell October 9, 2009 Published in the November 2009 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Michael Novak

PLENTY OF PORTLAND COMPANIES export their goods internationally, but local design firm Terrazign might be the only one shipping its wares to outer space. In September, NASA astronauts received three harnesses designed by the 15-year-old outfit to help them exercise inside the international space station.

Terrazign, which has engineered fabric products such as backpacks for Nike and saddlebags for Segway, began the project in 2007 when NASA contacted them with a conundrum: to maintain their treadmill-running regimens, astronauts needed a more comfortable harness.

“When you get into weightlessness, your muscle tone and bone density drop dramatically,” says Bill Dieter, Terrazign’s president and founder. “You need the impact of walking or running.”

An astronaut in space loses bone mass at the rate of 1.5 percent per month­­ (12 times faster than a post-menopausal woman). And many astronauts are in orbit for six months.

Enter Terrazign’s custom-sized harnesses, which keep astronauts anchored to the treadmill at two points. The project is Terrazign’s first for NASA, and, according to Dieter, it’s just about the coolest thing the firm has had a chance to produce (sorry, Nike).

“Anything that leaves the gravitational pull of the Earth behind sort of trumps anything we’ve worked on before.”

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