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NASA Advanced Engineering Spacesuit

Even though astronauts won’t be going to another planet, moon, or asteroid anytime soon, engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center are hard at work developing the next generation of surface EVA spacesuits. Here, engineer Amy Ross discusses some of the latest testing and technology in a two-part interview:

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Chinese Spacesuit Analysis

This presentation provides an overview of the Chinese Feitian EVA Spacesuits that were used in 2008 as China became only the 3rd nation to perform EVA.  An overview of the Chinese spacesuit and life-support system were assessed from video downlinks during their EVA and from those assessments, spacesuit characteristics were identified and compared against the Russian Orlan Spacesuit (extremely similar) and the U.S. Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU).

Why things break in space

A great post by Robert Zimmerman that discusses the 2007 Solar Array Wing repair spacewalk by STS-120 astronauts Scott Parazynski and Doug Wheelock. More importantly, it stressed the point that “things will break” in space, and crews “will have no choice but to know how to maintain and repair their vessels…”

I recommend reading the entire post, but here are a few excerpts, emphasis mine:

ISS is presently our only testbed for studying these kinds of engineering questions. And in 2007, a spectacular failure, combined with an epic spacewalk, gave engineers at the Johnson Space Center a marvelous opportunity to study these very issues.

The results were quite unexpected: The guide wire had broken because it had been hit by a tiny piece of space junk, melting and splitting the wire but damaging nothing else.

Like the sailors of old, space travelers will need to able to repair and even rebuild their spaceships, wherever they are. Any interplanetary spaceship design has got to factor this reality into its design.

Cosmonauts complete 6 hour, 15 minute spacewalk

Yesterday, cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Anton Shkaplerov completed Russian EVA 30 on the International Space Station in 6 hours and 15 minutes.

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Anton Shkaplerov work to move the Strela 1 cargo crane from the Pirs docking and airlock compartment to the Poisk mini-research module. (Credit: NASA-TV)

For more details about the spacewalk, I’d recommend the following articles:

Russian Spacewalk on Schedule for Tomorrow

Tomorrow, February 16, 2012, Russian Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Anton Shkaplerov are scheduled to perform Russian EVA 30 outside of the International Space Station.

In this video, NASA Spacewalk Officer Glenda Brown talks about the tasks the crew will be performing and goes into some detail about the differences between the US and Russian spacewalk process, including:

  • Spacewalk task and tools
  • Training philosophy
  • Spacesuits
  • Prebreathe protocols
  • Spacewalk preparations

If you have any questions for Glenda or myself on any of these topics, leave a comment and I’ll post a Q&A in the future.

Robonaut Shakes Hands

Today, Increment 30 Commander Dan Burbank shared the first-ever handshake in space between a human and a humanoid robot, known as Robonaut.

Today on ISS, Robonaut consists of a head, upper torso, arms, and hands and is only capable of performing activities inside the vehicle (known as “IV” to the spacewalk community). Future plans include outfitting Robonaut with a leg-type structure and giving it capabilities to work on the exterior of ISS.

Currently, astronauts doing a spacewalk spend a large amount of time with worksite setup and hardware transfer. With the help of Robonaut, a larger portion of the limited time an astronaut spends doing a spacewalk can be focused on the specific tasks at-hand.

NASA to develop haptic air-typing spacesuit gloves

This is a great article from The Register outlining a very cool technology being considered by NASA through it’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) initiative:

“According to Barron’s Richard Adams, the plan would be to build “a small vibrating element” into spacesuit gloves “to create a surrogate for the tactile sense lost behind the insulating and protective layers”.

“Combined with a projection display on the helmet visor, this might allow a suited-up space ace to type away on a virtual keyboard hanging in the air in front of him or her – and feel the keystrokes.”

This technology would be easily applicable on Earth. “It just might be that we’ll all find ourselves in future pulling on a set of air-typing gloves and flipping down our vid-specs rather than sitting down and balancing our laptops on our knees or fondling away at our tablets.”

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/26/spacesuit_glove_haptic_motion_sensing/