Web exclusive: Karnazes to attempt first-ever "Moonathon"March 31, 2008
by Magnus Folly (Associated Press)
HOUSTON — On April 21st, American endurance athlete Dean Karnazes hopes to complete the first extraterrestrial marathon in the history of the solar system, NASA announced yesterday. The date of the lunar marathon attempt was chosen to coincide with the 112th running of the Boston Marathon.
“We’ve devised a route that mimics the topography of the Boston course,” Karnazes explained at a press conference held at Johnson Space Center. “It’s a net downhill course, but I’ll have to climb out of a large impact crater at mile 21, which will serve as my own personal Heartbreak Hill.”
If successful, Karnazes will easily break the unofficial record for the longest moonwalk. The current record is believed to be about 2,000 meters, set by Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev in 1997.
Karnazes, 45, is no stranger to racing under extreme conditions, having previously won the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon and the running division of the South Pole Marathon. In lieu of the usual aid stations and support crews, he will be tethered to a Moon Patrol Independent Explorer (MoonPIE) unit throughout his run. In addition, his progress will be monitored by astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery, who will live-blog the event via the website http://www.moonathonman.com.
Preparations for the “Moonathon” have been underway for several months. To ensure optimal traction on the moon’s dusty, uneven surface, The North Face and NASA have outfitted Karnazes with a custom-made trail racing shoe dubbed The Eclipse by its developers. Its features include a microjet propulsion system for automatically dislodging rocks that get caught in its treads.
To practice running in a low-gravity environment, Karnazes has completed several 20- to 30-mile runs on an anti-gravity treadmill manufactured by Alter-G.
“I’m still getting used to it,” he said. “On the one hand, I can take these enormously long strides, which is very cool. On the other hand, my cadence is out of whack because I float in the air for seconds at a time.”
“All in all,” he said, “I expect the Moonathon to be a few thousand steps for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”