Space Has Landed in Teddington

by Jacqui Kerr

A Pilates teacher from Teddington has designed an innovative piece of equipment based on a Pilates reformer designed to help astronauts maintain fitness during long periods space travel.  John Kennett has a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and has used his skills to produce his own version of a reformer called HIFIm, pronounced HiFi.

The genesis of his idea came after he rehabilitated a patient recovering from breast cancer. He used a programme of horizontal jumping to help recover her fitness and increase her bone density that had deteriorated during radiotherapy. Over the course of a year her bone density increased by 8%.

Equipped with the knowledge that astronauts decondition during long periods spent in space John wondered if he could extend his idea to allow astronauts to exercise in space by jumping horizontally. However jumping in space could end up causing a resonance throughout the spacecraft that could be deleterious to the stability of the spacecraft and affect the multitude of experiments that go on during space travel.

I decided to visit John at Teddington Pilates above the British Legion on Teddington High Street to take a look at his invention I’m no newcomer to Pilates, so I hoped to have a go myself. It was a different experience because the HIFIm has two carriages consisting of an upper and lower carriage connected by springs that moved simultaneously that absorbed the force of my jumping and hence absorbed any vibration. As I jumped horizontally which was hard work because as I pushed off the footplate, which is normally fixed on a Pilates reformer, it moved away and returned back to its position as I returned. John explained that this absorbed the force of my jumping and hence in space the spacecraft would not be destabilised.

HIFIm was built by Oscar winning special effects film, company, 2EFX who made Star Wars, Mission Impossible, Bond and recently 1917. John asked a former client of his, CEO Dominic Tuohy who agreed and with his lead special effects engineer Vince Abbott, they built the prototype that I was trying out.

John teamed up with Dr Daniel Cleather at St Mary’s university in Twickenham, an application for a grant was submitted to the UK Space Agency was accepted allowing research to continue.

The next step is to take HIFIm to France where it will be bolted to the floor of an A310 Airbus to test in zero gravity in March 2021. I wish I could be a fly on the wall when at 28,000 the plane will dive 31 times, each producing 22 seconds of zero gravity to put HIFIm through its paces. We will have to watch this space for the next stage of space travel emanating from Teddington.

Jacqui works freelance and is also part of the news team at Radio Jackie

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