Daily Archives: February 5, 2020

Before Its Time . . .

This was a Peloton before there was a Peloton.

Bally LifeCycle

In January 1987 I left the NASA contractor where I working on the Space Shuttle and moved over to Krug Life Sciences where I was working on the first iteration of the Space Station, then called Space Station Freedom.

I was the computer/video interface guy in a small group tasked with designing exercise equipment for the astronauts to use in space. After brainstorming for a few weeks, tossing around ideas for things what would work in Zero-G.

I mean, weight-lifting was out, as well as pushups. Even running on a treadmill wouldn’t be a worthwhile effort. Finally we settled on the idea of an exercise bike of some sort. The effort needed wouldn’t change under Zero-G conditions, and the astronaut wouldn’t float away if he was strapped to the seat.

In addition, we were also told to find a way to make the exercise ‘entertaining’. Getting started, our first job was to get an exercise bike to work with.

At the time Bally was the manufacturer of one of the top-of-the-line computer-controlled exercise bike, the Bally Lifecycle. So we called and appealed to their patriotic inclinations. Well, that and the promise of being able to advertise it ‘As Used On The Space Station’. And with some subtle threats, ‘possible IRS audits, etc.’ I was able to get a complete set of schematics and manuals on the bike.

As far as the ‘entertainment’ part of this, we decided to try and interface a video disc player to the unit that would play back biking videos, touring places like Hawaii, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. After a lot of work we came up with a way that the astronauts could take different routes and the video disc would sync up with their turns, so they could take a different route every time they exercised. And they could also speed up, slow down, or stop. All of this viewed on a monitor mounted over the bike’s handlebars.

And it was all controlled by a Commodore 64 that I had removed from the case, disconnected the keyboard, and mounted the circuit board inside the bike. The program was stored on a game cartridge so that when you turned the C64 on, it booted up directly into the program.

The only unknown at that point was to fly the video disc player on the Vomit Comet to be sure it would work in Zero-G. But while we were waiting for our slot to come up on an upcoming flight, Krug lost their contract on this project, and I move on to another contract.

The bike and our mods went back to Bally and disappeared. But then about 10 years, our concept was resurrected by Bally and others, utilizing the new DVD players that had just come out. We were just ahead of our time, and the technology.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you the rest of this story. About a hammer, a brutal murder, a psychotic doctor, and 40 years in prison.

Thought For The Day:

Sometimes I really needt this.

Feasible Reasons


%d bloggers like this: