Video: NASA testing modified "pumpkin suit" for asteroid mission spacewalks

Dec 16, 2013

(Phys.org) —NASA is taking steps to make spacewalking on an asteroid a reality. In the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) near the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston, engineers are testing a modified version of the pumpkin-orange Advanced Crew Escape System (ACES) worn by space shuttle astronauts during launch and reentry for use by future crew in the Orion spacecraft.

As the agency plans human deep missions, including a voyage to a relocated , care is being taken to efficiently use space inside Orion. The white Extravehicular Mobility Unit spacesuits used by crews to conducts spacewalks on the International Space Station are too bulky to carry in the spacecraft, so NASA is looking at ways to alter the ACES suits for multiple uses both inside and outside the spacecraft.

"The shell of them is very much the same, and to the casual user you may not even notice the difference, but internally we modified them to work with the plumbing inside Orion," said Dustin Gohmert, Crew Survival Systems Manager at Johnson.

Through a series of tests in the NBL, engineers are learning what features need to be included to improve the suit's mobility beyond the needs of the trip from the launch pad to space and its return to Earth, such as enhanced gloves and elbow joints with improved mobility for spacewalks.

The ACES pumpkin suit was worn by space shuttle crews beginning in 1994 and builds on the earliest spacesuit worn by Ed White during the first venture outside a spacecraft in 1965.

"We're stepping back to our heritage to be able to use one suit for multiple tasks," said Gohmert.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

NASA is looking at a broad range of ideas and techniques as the agency further refines its mission design for the agency's asteroid initiative, an effort that combines human exploration, space technology and science work being done across the agency to find and redirect and asteroid to a stable orbit near the moon for exploration by astronauts.

The NBL tests are helping with the evaluation of options for spacewalking techniques like how best to get out of Orion and traverse the spacecraft toward the captured asteroid. NASA is making use of previous experience and proving designs to accelerate development, ensure crew safety and increase reliability.

Explore further: Astronauts practice launching in NASA's new Orion spacecraft

Related Stories

NASA releases new imagery of asteroid mission

Aug 23, 2013

(Phys.org) —NASA released Thursday new photos and video animations depicting the agency's planned mission to find, capture, redirect, and study a near-Earth asteroid. The images depict crew operations including ...

NASA's Orion spacecraft comes to life

Oct 29, 2013

(Phys.org) —NASA's first-ever deep space craft, Orion, has been powered on for the first time, marking a major milestone in the final year of preparations for flight.

Recommended for you

Mysteries of space dust revealed

Aug 29, 2014

The first analysis of space dust collected by a special collector onboard NASA's Stardust mission and sent back to Earth for study in 2006 suggests the tiny specks open a door to studying the origins of the ...

A guide to the 2014 Neptune opposition season

Aug 29, 2014

Never seen Neptune? Now is a good time to try, as the outermost ice giant world reaches opposition this weekend at 14:00 Universal Time (UT) or 10:00 AM EDT on Friday, August 29th. This means that the distant ...

Informing NASA's Asteroid Initiative: A citizen forum

Aug 28, 2014

In its history, the Earth has been repeatedly struck by asteroids, large chunks of rock from space that can cause considerable damage in a collision. Can we—or should we—try to protect Earth from potentially ...

Image: Rosetta's comet looms

Aug 28, 2014

Wow! Rosetta is getting ever-closer to its target comet by the day. This navigation camera shot from Aug. 23 shows that the spacecraft is so close to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that it's difficult to ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Yohaku
not rated yet Dec 16, 2013
Sorry, but balloon suits near sharp objects? Give me a Bio-Suit or other counter-pressure space suits. They are as different as sponge-diver suits and SCUBA wet-suits. I hate to see NASA going the sponge-diver route when they pioneered the counter-pressure suits in the late 60's.