Saturday, August 15, 2009

Like a Backpack With Balloons: the Moon is Unearthly

"How to Maneuver in a Space Suit Using the 'Apollo Number' "
Wired Science (August 14, 2009)

"Next time you're stuck on the moon and running out of oxygen, you'd better run, not walk, back to your lunar module — especially if you're wearing a space suit.

"Scientists say those giant, bulky suits actually make running easier and walking more difficult on the moon. By combing through video and audio recordings from Apollo moonwalks, researchers have devised a mathematical method to explain how space suits affected lunar gait during the Apollo missions, and how future space suits might change the way we get around on Mars.

"'Space suits are effectively reducing the gravity level by supporting part of the weight of everything that's being transported,' said space physiology researcher Christopher Carr of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who co-authored the paper published Wednesday in the journal PLoS ONE. 'When you're out there, it's like wearing a backpack with a bunch of helium balloons attached to it.'..."

Not all science fiction stories take place on other worlds, in space, or in the future. But, some do. An author would be well-advised to think about what effects the different environments - and technologies - would have on everyday activities like standing, sitting, and moving around.

I think it was Arthur C. Clark who pointed out in a story that snapping to attention in free fall would, like as not, result in distinct discomfort when the person's head hit the overhead.

"Self-Supporting Space Suit Makes It Hard to Bend"

wired, YouTube (August 14, 2009)
video 0:52

"During this scene from the Apollo 16 mission, astronaut Charles Duke drops a hammer on the lunar surface and has a tough time picking it up. To overcome the self-support of the space suit, he has to jump repeatedly in order to compress the suit's knee joint and pick up the hammer."

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