Astronauts Fall Over. Robotic Limbs Can Help Them Back Up. | TechCrunch - Latest Global News

Astronauts Fall Over. Robotic Limbs Can Help Them Back Up. | TechCrunch

We all fall sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. Space travel requires one to be in peak physical condition, but bulky spacesuits and lower gravity can be a recipe for disaster and cause them to trip over themselves.

The answer to this very specific problem could well be robotic limbs. They can’t completely prevent falls, but they can help astronauts get back on their feet.

Engineers at MIT have developed an exoskeleton designed to give astronauts more grip and help them get back on their feet after stumbling in the moon’s low gravity. The “SuperLimbs” are built into a backpack that also contains the engines that power them and the astronaut’s life support system.

The system, which is still in the prototype stage, responds directly to the wearer’s feedback. When sitting or lying down, it offers constructive support that helps you get up again while using less energy – in such a situation, every extra bit helps.

“During the Apollo era, astronauts fell 80% of the time while excavating or doing other work with a tool,” says MIT graduate student Erik Ballesteros. “The Artemis missions will really focus on construction and excavation work, so the risk of falling is much higher. We believe SuperLimbs can help them recover so they can be more productive and extend their EVAs.”

The system is based on an earlier prototype developed several years ago for agricultural workers. Meanwhile, exosuits have become an increasingly popular way to help people in construction and other manual jobs avoid unnecessary injuries. The team behind the project began adapting the work after discussions with NASA.

“In communication with NASA, we learned that falling on the moon poses a serious risk,” says Harry Asada, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. “We realized we could make some changes to our design to help astronauts recover from falls and continue their work.”

To adapt the system, it was necessary to study how people recover from falls. According to the researchers, about 80% of us do it the same way. Ultimately, the team landed on a control system that powers a pair of robotic arms that protrude from the backpack to assist the astronaut.

They will begin testing the system this summer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Sharing Is Caring:

Leave a Comment