Gecko Mobility Aids for A Common Habitat Architecture
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“Spacecraft large enough for crew to move around inside them have traditionally used handrails and foot restraints to enable crew mobility. The mass of this hardware can become significant in large spacecraft such as the Common Habitat. Additionally, handrails and foot restraints in a multi-gravity habitat are trip hazards when the habitat is in a gravity environment. Further, ISS crew have noted risks of breaking ankles and wrists when using handrails for translation and have noted places where not enough handrails are present. Robotic gecko-derived grippers developed by JPL to retrieve satellites can be adapted to crew-worn pads that can adhere to surfaces to enable crew translation in microgravity.
This technology will help to eliminate the need for handrails and foot restraints for mobility in crewed microgravity spacecraft cabins. It has the potential to achieve significant mass reductions in future space habitats, with application to suborbital flight, LEO, cislunar space, interplanetary space, the Moon, and Mars. Additionally, it can prevent crew injury and discomfort. Project goals and objectives are to prepare gecko uniform prototypes for use in multi-gravity testing and conduct initial investigations into human factors of postures and motions needed for intravehicular activity (IVA) translation and restraint in multiple gravity environments, without the use of handrails or foot restraints. Gecko grippers have been tested for use as robotic end effectors terrestrially, on microgravity aircraft, and aboard the ISS.
Using the grippers as a body-mounted system to achieve IVA crew mobility is a new application that has not been pursued outside of this effort. This work will continue paper studies performed by NASA student interns by developing physical prototypes of spacecraft crew uniforms with gecko-derived body-mounted grippers. Clothing prototypes may include long sleeves, short sleeves, long pants, shorts, gloves, and/or booties equipped with gecko gripper pads. Forward work is to test these uniforms in a 1g environment to verify that the design does not introduce obstructions, trip hazards, or other consequences when used in terrestrial gravity. Based on the 1g test results, the uniform prototypes will be refined, and a test plan developed for testing at 0g, (1/6)g, and (3/8)g.