ESA Space Tech Catapults Olympian to New World Record

The 2008 Paralympics wrapped up over the summer, but we're only just today learning about some of the awesome stories to come out of this amazing tech-assisted sporting event. We've covered these bionic athletes before, with some help from the Big Picture, but today's story out of Germany shows just how much goes into helping these young men and women compete. A previous sporting injury left Wojtek Czyz without a left leg and the ability to long jump. The ESA, using materials developed for space, helped him get to the Olympics and vault into the record books.

The work on Czyz's leg started four years ago, when the ESA's Technology Transfer Programme broker MST Aerospace met with the athlete and his trainer for a pre-screening. What they developed over the following few years focused on the "L-bracket," or connection angle, between the knee joint and foot prosthesis.

"In collaboration with the German company ISATEC, we developed a new L-bracket using materials originating from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), an instrument that will be mounted on the International Space Station to study extraterrestrial anti-matter, matter and missing matter," said Dr. Werner Dupont, MST Aerospace Managing Director.

For real space and physics geeks, you can geek out a little more with this ESA-supplied bit on the AMS. It turns out the materials used in this track and field-come-space flight device are going to do a lot more than just break earthbound records:

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) is a particle physics experiment that is to be mounted on the International Space Station designed to search for various types of unusual matter by measuring cosmic rays. It is an international collaboration involving 500 scientists from 56 institutions and 16 countries. Final assembly was done at CERN and thermal/vacuum testing was performed by ESA before its shipment to the Kennedy Space Centre. AMS is planned to be delivered to the ISS by the Space Shuttle in 2010.

As for Czyz, he beat the previous record by an astounding 27 cm. [ESA]

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