|Posted on Oct 24, 2011 08:25:31 AM | NASA Testing for Human Space Exploration | 4 Comments ||
Image at right: Steve Squyres of Cornell uses a small boom for translation activities.
Today was Day 4 of our mission and it was a challenging one. As usual, the action was centered around the “EVAs”, or extra-vehicular activities in NASA parlance – our simulated space walks.
We had two different kinds of activities in today’s EVAs. One of them was very slow, very methodical, and very effective. Imagine a long telescoping pole – we called it a boom – with big heavy magnets on each end. We used this boom to get around on the simulated asteroid surface (i.e., the sea floor), moving like an inchworm.
It goes like this: Fasten both magnets to anchor points on the surface. Unfasten one and move to it to a new anchor point. Fasten it. Unfasten the other one and move it to a new anchor point… and repeat as necessary. It was slow, but it got us to where we wanted to go pretty reliably.
Once we arrived at our destination, the boom was great. It’s hard to do things like hit a rock with a hammer in zero-g without going flying. But with the boom solidly in place, we could wrap our legs around it and whack away at the rock pretty easily. So a boom could be a good technique for geologists to use to get work done on an asteroid, I think.
The other part of the EVA was totally different… jet packs! We had battery-powered thruster packs on our backs that we could use to move very quickly and easily from one place to another. And yeah, I have to confess, it was every bit as much fun as it sounds like it was. Quick, easy, and very cool. Problem was, once we arrived at our destination with a job to do, staying in place was a lot harder.
Sometimes the best answer to a complicated problem is to use some combination of techniques. So one way I could see this going might be that astronauts would use jet packs to move long distances over an asteroid surface, and then a boom for smaller motions and getting work done.
Or maybe they’ll use something completely different! It’s only Day 4 of the mission, and we’ve got a lot more techniques to try… so we’ll see.
Tags : Analogs, General, NEEMO, NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations), field testing