Latest in Tomorrow

Image credit: STR New / Reuters

Spacesuit 'take me home' feature could save lost astronauts

Major Tom could get back to his capsule.
977 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Sponsored Links

STR New / Reuters

The greatest fear for many astronauts is to get lost or disoriented during a spacewalk, especially if it's untethered. How do you get back to safety with no sense of direction, little to no help and a limited supply of oxygen? Researchers at Draper might offer a lifeline. They recently applied for a patent on a self-return feature in spacesuits that would automatically navigate back to the astronaut's home ship. A spacefarer in a panic could just slap a button and know they would get back to the airlock.

The trick is to equip the suit with sensors that track motion and position relative to that of a relatively stationary object like a spacecraft, with alternative methods if one system or another doesn't work. Since GPS isn't exactly viable in space, it could use star tracking or vision-boosted navigation to get bearings. Draper is hoping for an autonomous system that would trigger thrusters all on its own, but it's open to the possibility of a manual system that uses an in-visor display and sensory cues to guide astronauts homeward.

This is only a patent, and it isn't guaranteed to go into space any time soon. However, NASA has been backing Draper's research -- it's interested in advancing spacesuit design. And as Draper notes, the basic ideas behind this could still be helpful for anyone in a suit who needs an urgent trip home, whether it's a deep sea diver or a firefighter in the middle of a burning building.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
977 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Popular on Engadget

Motorola is making Android TVs too

Motorola is making Android TVs too

View
Google may soon let you search with a screenshot

Google may soon let you search with a screenshot

View
US investigates escort and massage sites over human trafficking

US investigates escort and massage sites over human trafficking

View
Nissan envisions car-themed esports gaming chairs

Nissan envisions car-themed esports gaming chairs

View
AI can gauge the risk of dying from heart conditions

AI can gauge the risk of dying from heart conditions

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr