The purpose of this investigation was to assess muscle fiber size, composition, and in vivo contractile characteristics of the calf muscle of four male crew members during a 17-day spaceflight (SF; Life and Microgravity Sciences Spacelab Shuttle Transport System-78 mission) and eight men during a 17-day bed rest (BR). The protocols and timelines of these two investigations were identical, therefore allowing for direct comparisons between SF and the BR. The subjects' age, height, and weight were 43 ± 2 yr, 183 ± 4 cm, and 86 ± 3 kg for SF and 43 ± 2 yr, 182 ± 3 cm, and 82 ± 4 kg for BR, respectively. Calf muscle strength was examined before SF and BR; on days 2, 8, and12 during SF and BR; and on days 2 and8 of recovery. Muscle biopsies were obtained before and within 3 h after SF (gastrocnemius and soleus) and BR (soleus) before reloading. Maximal isometric calf strength and the force-velocity characteristics were unchanged with SF or BR. Additionally, neither SF nor BR had any effect on fiber composition or fiber size of the calf muscles studied. In summary, no changes in calf muscle strength and morphology were observed after the 17-day SF and BR. Because muscle strength is lost during unloading, both during spaceflight and on the ground, these data suggest that the testing sequence employed during the SF and BR may have served as a resistance training countermeasure to attenuate whole muscle strength loss.

  • spaceflight
  • skeletal muscle
  • weightlessness
  • unloading
  • Shuttle Transport System-78


  • This research was supported by NASA Grant NAS9-18768 (to R. H. Fitts).

  • Address for reprint requests and other correspondence: S. W. Trappe, Human Performance Laboratory, Ball State Univ. Muncie, IN 47306 (E-mail: strappe{at}bsu.edu).

  • The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. The article must therefore be hereby marked “advertisement” in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.

View Full Text