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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )
Related News Stories -
Elon Musk Tweets Versions Of Clarke's Operation Cleanup
'Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1978.
Espresso Telescope Searches For Exoplanets
'These instruments were the wonderful ones our astronomers had perfected.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1936.
Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984
'The glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him.' - Jack Williamson, 1933.
Astronaut Gets Younger In Space
'So what we're looking for now is not an antibiotic - an anti-life drug - but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug...' - James Blish, 1957.
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.
IBM's Grain Of Sand Computer
'Our ancestors... thought to make the very sand beneath their feet intelligent...'
Liquid Metal Shape-Changing 'Soft Robotics'
'A mimetic poly-alloy... 'What the hell does that mean?''
The Hammock Caravan And Italo Calvino's Octavia
'Now I will tell you how Octavia, the spider-web city, is made.'
Super-Resolution Microscopy Provides '4D' Views
View the magnified interior of living cells.
Have I Seen The Tesla Roadster Story Before?
'Only it wasn't a vessel. It was an automobile...'
Watch 'Do You Trust This Computer' For Free Today
Thanks for making this available, Elon.
Self-Driving Car Ticketed
This just missed making my day.
Elon Musk Tweets Versions Of Clarke's Operation Cleanup
'Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task.'
Burner Generates Temporary Phone Numbers
'Interesting phone system he's got, by the way...'
Walmart’s Autonomous Robot Bees
Everyone loves bees.
EA Created AI That Taught Itself To Play Battlefield
Harmless fun for computer scientists.
Is Teleportation A Death Sentence?
'A long trail of dead, he thought, left across the stars...'
New Brain Scanner Lets You Move Around
'In Bob Arctor's living room his thousand dollar custom-quality cephscope crafted by Altec...'
Can An Entire Brain Be Simulated In A Computer?
'The miles of relays and photocells had given way to the spongy globe of platinum iridium about the size of the human brain.'
Physicists Try To Turn Light Into Matter
If E=mc squared, then... m=E/c squared!
Save Your Brain's Connectome, Upload Yourself Elsewhere
'You've got remote storage. How regular is the update?'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories