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!
Update: NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will speak with astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, commander of the 16th NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission, and her fellow crewmate Timothy Peake of the European Space Agency at 3:10 p.m. CDT today, June 20, as they perform their final “spacewalk” of the mission, 63 feet below the ocean’s surface.
On June 11, Metcalf-Lindenburger joined ESA Astronaut Tim Peake and JAXA Astronaut Kimiya Yui along with others to the bottom of the sea to simulate deep-space exploration activities in the 16th expedition of NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO).
In this video, Metcalf-Lindenburger talked to SPACE.com while outside Aquarius, on a simulated spacewalk.
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.
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).
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.
For more details about the spacewalk, I’d recommend the following articles:
- Realtime coverage of Russian EVA-30; William Harwood – CBS News
- 2 Russian Cosmonauts Move Space Station Crane in 6-Hour Spacewalk; Tariq Malik – SPACE.com
- Two Russian cosmonauts complete ISS walk; James Dean – Florida Today
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
- 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.