Saturday, August 15, 2009

Walking, Running, the 'Apollo Number' and Lunar Exploration

"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.'..."

Things are different on the Moon. This Wired article is a pretty good overview of what's involved in dealing with 1/6 the force of gravity - in a space suit - with a heavy backpack that acts like it's attached to helium balloons.

Although I'm sure it's important to work out equations for deciding when to stop walking and when to start running on the Moon and, eventually, on Mars: I've got a notion that people 'on the ground' there would be able to figure it out on their own. My guess is that working out the math will be useful for equipment design.

And, the article comes with a video:

"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."
I wrote another micro-review of this article for another post:

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