How does NASA train it’s astronauts for spacewalks on the International Space Station? Mainly, in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab. The question often comes up, and this week it was coming from TheChive.com asking “does NASA really need the largest indoor body of water in the world to help train our astronauts?”
Author Lee Hutchinson details a day in the life at the NBL, and provides a unique behind-the-scenes look into all the work that goes into making a successful training event happen. From SCUBA divers to crane technicians to the astronauts themselves, this article is a must-read!
As noted in the artice, NASA doesn’t know where the Z-Series suit will be going, so it is designed with flexibily (in mission and mobility) including a suitport interface to reduce egress/ingress time and difficulties associated with an airlock.
Despite being named one of Times’ best inventions of the year, Z-1 is just a prototype that NASA will be building on with Z-2 and Z-3 revisions. NASA recently finished testing the suit, which means work on the Z-2 can’t be far off.
We look forward to more information on Z-2, and as it becomes publicly available, we’ll share more.
In this article on GM’s media website, they tout a new robotic technology, developed using some of the same principals of Robonaut 2, “that auto workers and astronauts can wear to help do their respective jobs better while potentially reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries.”
While the GM article continues on about the many benefits to reducing the amount of force required during a spacewalk, they completely miss the boat on the use of this technology in space. While the article outlines how this glove can improve safety and productivity on the shop floor in an auto industry, this would not be the case on a spacewalk.
Since NASA entered into the spacewalking business in 1965, engineers have wrestled with the trade-off of increasing safety margins by bulking up the spacesuit, and providing the astronaut mobility and tactility while working. The glove is the most vulnerable part of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (or “E-M-U” NASA’s spacesuit since 1982), because it has to be to allow the astronaut the tactility and mobility to work productively and in a timely manner.
While GM has a great technology to improve the automotive industry, in this case it doesn’t correlate to improving a spacewalk.
In my opinion, combining this technology with integrated haptic vibro feedback and Halting State style air-writing accelerometer capability might be an interesting solution.
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:
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.
The Washington Post (Brian Palmer) published an article on Monday providing a great overview of the challenges of living and working in space and doing spacewalks.
To state the obvious, space is an inhospitable environment… Spacesuits protect astronauts against all these challenges. They have multiple layers to provide insulation and prevent a puncture of the inner coating, which is filled with pure oxygen at a livable pressure… A layer of water circulates throughout the suit, interacting with a layer of ice near the outer surface, to moderate the temperature. A ventilation system removes excess body heat when the sun threatens to warm the astronaut too much… Modern suits have built-in life support systems, so the astronaut can function outside a spacecraft without being tethered to a much larger machine.
The suits are so self-contained that some refer to them as the universe’s smallest space vehicles.
Read more from the original publication.