Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System (MARES)

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MARES project MARES project
MARES project
MARES project
  • Client: European Space Agency (ESA)
  • Country: Netherlands
  • Start date: 1998
  • Ending date: 2009
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MARES (Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System) is a European Space Agency (ESA) facility for research into the effects caused by weightlessness on human muscles.

This system is integrated in the Columbus module of the International Space Station (ISS)and is part of the NASA Human Research Facility.

The main objectives of the MARES system are:

  • To carry out research on muscle-skeletal, bio-mechanical, neuromuscular, and neurological physiology.
  • To study the effect of micro-gravity on the human body.
  • To evaluate the effect of the countermeasures applied to offset this effect. To assess the effectiveness of exercise test protocols.

The system makes it possible to investigate induced atrophy in muscle groups, both of the individual joints of the trunk and limbs and of whole limbs. For this purpose it applies a stimulus with programmable speed or torque/force to eleven different muscle groups of the human body in order to subsequently measure the subject's torque/force and speed response.

SENER, as the main contractor for MARES, was in charge of project management, the global design of the system, all the control, power and supervision electronics and all the mechanical and structural parts, as well as the software.

  • Characteristics:
  • Measurement of 11 muscle groups.
  • Astronauts population between the 5th percentile japanese female and the 95th percentile american male.
  • Continuous torque of +- 450 Nm and peak torque of 900 Nm.
  • Ripple torque of less than 0.3 Nm.
  • Maximum speed of up to 9 rad/s.
  • Velocity settle time less than 55 m/s.
  • Acurated measurement of torque, position, velocity and acceleration.
  • MARES is composed of several subsystems:
  • Low-inertia torque motor (between 1 and 900 Nm) and its servo drive electronics.
  • Mechanical sub-system consisting of the main structure, the subject restraining chair with its pantograph and a set of restraints and adapters.
  • Controller.
  • Supervision electronics. Power and battery.
  • User interface software.


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