Saturday, December 11, 2010

How would marooned astronauts be rescued

Any fan of science fiction space or maybe the marooned in space genre of movie has seen this situation used more than once: An astronaut working outside a ship or something akin to it, for some reason becomes separated from the craft which all but assures that they will die an agonizing death through aphixia or loss of suit pressure. Every movie I had seen where someone had drifted even just a short distance was considered lost, no way to retreive them.

Well in a recent Gizmodo blog entry, this need not be a foregone conclusion and it seems that NASA has some pretty interesting contingency plan.

Of course we all know any EVA includes a teather. I just think we have never considered how strong the unit is. An astronauts teather is braided steel, which has a tensile strength of 1,100 pounds. Not something that is bound to fail under normal conditions. However if the unthinkable should happen and someone's teather failed then NASA's backup plan is a S.A.F.E.R. Yeah, I never heard if it either. It's a "Simplified Aid for Extra-vehicular activity Rescue," According to the article it's:
  • a backpack with built-in nitrogen-jet small joystick to propel (the astronaut) back to the station.
There are a few really out there options but as Michael Curie, a spokesman for NASA's space operations puts it: "we are really happy with the tether-and-Safer approach."

So I would think that one of science fiction's old saws has been made moot by advancements in suit technology. Safer sounds so much like an off shot of something like what was experimented with in earlier projects like Gemini.

Read the complete Gizmodo article here

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