Tech & Science This Spacesuit's 'Take Me Home' Button Could Rescue Astronauts Adrift In Space

05:21  07 december  2017
05:21  07 december  2017 Source:   Gizmodo Australia

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Such a system is currently under development at Draper Labs, and it could soon become a standard feature on spacesuits . To develop this “ take me home ” The self-return system can be initiated by the astronaut , the crew onboard the space station, or members of mission control down on Earth.

Such a system is currently under development at Draper Labs, and it could soon become a standard feature on spacesuits . To develop this " take me home " The self-return system can be initiated by the astronaut , the crew onboard the space station, or members of mission control down on Earth.

Sandra Bullock in a scene from 'Gravity'.© Heyday Films Sandra Bullock in a scene from 'Gravity'.

Imagine the frightening scenario - dramatised in movies such as Gravity and 2001 - where an astronaut gets sick or disoriented during a spacewalk. Confused, and on the cusp of losing consciousness, she struggles to operate the suit's jetpack. Unable to get her bearings, and without a tether to keep her secured to the space station, she drifts farther and farther away until all hope is lost.

Now instead of that scenario, imagine the struggling astronaut presses an emergency button which automatically takes her back to the International Space Station or another space-based habitat. Such a system is currently under development at Draper Labs, and it could soon become a standard feature on spacesuits.

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Now instead of that scenario, imagine the struggling astronaut presses an emergency button which automatically takes her back to the International Space Station or another Such a system is currently under development at Draper Labs, and it could soon become a standard feature on spacesuits .

A startup company has applied for a patent on a spacesuit feature that would take a disoriented astronaut back to safety with the push of a button . Draper has filed for a patent for a space suit with a ‘ take me home ’ feature that would transfer space suits into life-saving devices.

To develop this "take me home" technology, Draper's engineers had to design a system capable of pinpointing an astronaut's location relative to the return point, and compute an optimal return trajectory taking time, oxygen consumption, safety and clearance considerations into account. There's no GPS in orbit, of course, and preventing the astronaut's head from smashing against a solar panel would probably be a good thing. Fundamentally, the technology needed to be able to guide a disoriented (and possibly unconscious) astronaut back to the awaiting craft. To that end, Draper's new system is capable of monitoring movement, acceleration and relative position of a spacewalking astronaut to a fixed object, such as the ISS.

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This Spacesuit Comes with a “ Take Me Home ” Button . Astronauts , firefighters, skydivers and others could benefit from clothing equipped with sensors and other smart tech. Duda has studied astronauts and their habitat onboard the International Space Station.

He and his colleagues recently filed a patent for a self-return system to ensure astronauts are safe, even if no other astronaut can rescue them. Draper’ s director of space systems, Séamus Tuohy, said the return- home technology is an advance in spacesuits that is long overdue.

"Giving astronauts a sense of direction and orientation in space is a challenge because there is no gravity and no easy way to determine which way is up and down," explained Kevin Duda, a space systems engineer at Draper, in a statement. "Our technology improves mission success in space by keeping the crew safe."

When enabled, the suit's "take me home" system can operate the jetpack autonomously, or provide the the astronaut with directions using sensors or via the helmet's visor display. The self-return system can be initiated by the astronaut, the crew onboard the space station, or members of mission control down on Earth.

Duda and his colleagues at Draper only recently filed a patent for the system, so it may be a while before we see functional, space-capable versions. Importantly, however, NASA co-funded this spacesuit project, so there's a major player interested in its development. That said, this system could be applied to other applications, such as when firefighters are incapacitated by smoke, or scuba divers struggling in the ocean.

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Researchers at the engineering firm Draper recently applied for a patent on a space suit with a “self-return feature” to automatically taxi an adrift astronaut back to the station. This spacesuit could also provide directional cues inside the helmet and even relay step-by-step directional audio

There are plenty of ways to brutally die in the unforgiving vacuum of space . Fortunately, a company has patented a next-generation spacesuit with a return home feature fail-safe, to boot.

[Draper]

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