Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

Laser-Activated Rescue Thrusters For Astronauts

Imagine that you are an astronaut on an untethered EVA, and you've lost consciousness. Although you have a thruster pack, you need to be awake to use it. What can be done?

John Sinko, an engineer now at Ohio State University in Newark and Clifford Schlecht at the Institute for Materials, Energetics and Complexity in Greenville, South Carolina are working on a prototype.

In Sinko's original plan, spacecraft carry thrusters with two types of propellant, each responding to a different laser wavelength. To fire a thruster, a laser beam is shone on it, vaporising propellant to create thrust and so push the spacecraft onto a new course. The propellants fire in different directions, so the spacecraft can be steered.

Existing rescue systems - spring-loaded or gas-driven tethers that can be fired towards an astronaut - can't reach more than 100 metres. And astronauts venturing outside the International Space Station must wear a jet pack of nitrogen thrusters. But none of these safety measures can help an astronaut who is incapacitated. The tractor beam would.

Sinko and Schlecht's calculations suggest their technique will work. By pulsing a carbon-dioxide laser on a 1-kilogram thruster for 200 seconds, they reckon they can move an astronaut back towards safety at 1 metre per second (Journal of Propulsion and Power, vol 27, p 1114).

As far as I know, the notion of a remotely-triggered rescue system is a unique idea. The idea of having a way to move around while on a spacewalk has been around for more than one hundred years. In his 1898 story Edison's Conquest of Mars, the intrepid (and fictional) Mr. Edison solves the problem of untethered spacewalks.

Mr. Edison's way of guarding against the danger was by contriving a little apparatus, modeled after that which was the governing force of the electrical ships themselves, and which, being enclosed in the air-tight suits, enabled their wearers to manipulate the electrical charge upon them in such a way that they could make excursions from the cars into open space like steam launches from a ship, going and returning at their will.
(Read more about the electrical 'tether')

Robert Heinlein offered a more practical alternative in his 1948 novel Space Cadet.

"The trick to jetting yourself in space,"—he went on, 'lies in balancing your body on the jet—the thrust has to pass through your center of gravity. If you miss and don't correct it quickly, you start to spin, waste your fuel, and have the devil's own time stopping your spin. "It's no harder than balancing a walking stick on your finger—but the first time you try it, it seems hard..."

He squatted down, lifted himself on his hands, and very cautiously broke his boots loose from the side, then steadied himself on a cadet within reach. He turned and stretched out, so that he floated with his back to the ship, arms and legs extended. His rocket jet stuck straight back at the ship from the small of his back; his sight stuck out from his helmet in the opposite direction...
(Read more about Heinlein's personal rocket jet)

From New Scientist; thanks to Winchell Chung, who has more information on Rocket Packs on his site Project Rho.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/15/2011)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Spaceships Should Last So Long
'THE SPACE VESSEL was traveling swiftly… For over five thousand years they had Voyaged on and on.’ - E.C. Tubb, 1955.

Space Station Shutters
'The sun-quilt was a patchwork of colors and materials on the inward side, but silvered on the outward side...' - Fritz Leiber, 1961.

MIT Proposes Space Bubbles To Combat Climate Change, Misses The Point Of Space Bubbles
'Fats Jordan was hanging in the center of the Big Glass Balloon, hugging his guitar to his massive black belly above his purple shorts.' - Fritz Leiber, 1961.

Study Reveals Effect Of Space Travel On The Brain
'... the brain is no longer subjected to the accustomed pull, and it expands slightly in all directions.' - Hugo Gernsback, 1929.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

Giving Snakes Their Legs Back
Then some unknown race had chanced upon the dreamers and decided to 'help them out.'

'Ring Nation' Show Predicted By William Gibson In 1999
'... you had your trademark Lucky Dragon Global Interactive Video Column outside.'

SolarXOne Solar-Powered Drone Flies (almost) Forever
'It's an Indian Air Force drone; its solar cells could power an entire farm.'

Video! Chess Robot Breaks Opponent's Finger In Match
'A robot may not injure a human being.'

Virtual Co-Embodyment - Two People Control One Virtual Body
'... we were supposed to be forming five unit composites first."

The Wanderer: Eyebot From Fallout, Eye From Zelazny
'We send our eyes on their appointed rounds, and they can hover or soar or back up...'

Experts Decry Planet-Scale Schemes To Limit Global Heating
'Light from the sun hit those little spheres and bounced.'

OrganEx Revives The Organs In Dead Pig
'Wakened into half-life activity one hour a month...'

NAVER Labs Haptic Device 2.0 Robot vs. IKEA
'... the two pairs of waldoes in the screen followed in exact, simultaneous parallelism.'

Spaceships Should Last So Long
'THE SPACE VESSEL was traveling swiftly… For over five thousand years they had Voyaged on and on.’

Shine On, Portable Wind Turbine
'Sometimes a man has a windmill on his roof...'

Amazing Indoor Robotic Drones Mimic Dolphins and Whales
'They circled the vast audiences, dancing, twittering, chirping...'

Space Station Shutters
'The sun-quilt was a patchwork of colors and materials on the inward side, but silvered on the outward side...'

Tiny Mining - Extract Precious Industrial Minerals From Your Own Body
'Jim, I saw them reduce four of my doctors and nurses into those little cubes!'

MIT Proposes Space Bubbles To Combat Climate Change, Misses The Point Of Space Bubbles
'Fats Jordan was hanging in the center of the Big Glass Balloon, hugging his guitar to his massive black belly above his purple shorts..'

Tianjin Solar Vehicle From Hanergy (2022) Looking Like Heinlein's (1940)
'When confronted by hills, or rough terrain, it did not stop, but simply slowed until the task demanded equaled its steady power output.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.