Astronauts and cosmonauts in space have reported spatial disorientation problems, where they find it hard to get a sense of direction, or distinguish between what might be considered “up” or “down.” This is called “Visual Reorientation Illusions” (VRIs) where the spacecraft floors, walls and ceiling surfaces can suddenly exchange subjective identities.
An extreme example of this came when one shuttle astronaut reported feeling like the room was rotating around him when he opened his eyes one morning. Other astronauts have reported briefly not knowing where they were during a spacewalk.
This week we welcome back to the show Dr. David Warmflash. Since he was last with us, David has been named as Co-Principal Investigator and Medical Director for a new NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBRI) Phase I study titled “Mixed-Reality Holographic Training System to Enable High-Value Surgical and Complex Medical Procedures by Astronauts.” This study, managed by the New Jersey-based Mgenuity Corporation with collaboration from Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU), aims to develop a system to guide astronauts through surgical and medical procedures on Exploration Class missions.
Could lava tubes on the Moon and Mars play a role in establishing a human presence on those worlds? Possibly, according to a team of researchers. Their new study shows that lunar and Martian lava tubes might be enormous, and easily large enough to accommodate a base.
Any mission to Mars requires deeper planning than missions to the ISS or the Moon. Based purely on the length of the mission, contingencies branch outwards in complex logistical pathways. What if there’s an accident? What if someone’s appendix bursts?
Earth is a radiation cocoon. Inside that cocoon, the atmosphere and the magnetosphere keep us mostly safe from the Sun’s radiaition. Some ultraviolet light gets through, and can damage us. But reasonable precautions like simply minimizing exposure can keep the Sun’s radiation at bay.
But space is a different matter altogether. Among the many hazards it poses to astronauts, ever-present radiation is one that needs a solution.
Now a team of researchers have developed a new biomaterial to protect astronauts.
Dropping a mirror on Earth is only minor cause for concern, perhaps about the potential of some upcoming bad luck. Dropping a mirror while on a spacewalk means creating a potentially dangerous new piece of space junk, all while thousands of people watch it happen, streaming live.
The Apollo astronauts walked on the Moon, yes. But they also hopped, bounded, and shuffled. And sometimes they fell, spectacularly. That caused a lot of consternation back on the Earth, especially for the engineers who designed the Apollo spacesuits.
If humanity is going to become a spare-faring and interplanetary species, one of the most important things will be the ability of astronauts to see to their needs independently. Relying on regular shipments of supplies from Earth is not only inelegant; it’s also impractical and very expensive. For this reason, scientists are working to create technologies that would allow astronauts to provide for their own food, water, and breathable air.
The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) is a simulated Martian habitat in Utah. It’s owned by the Mars Society, and it’s the society’s second such station. The MDRS is a research facility, and while there, scientists must live as if they were on Mars, including wearing simulated space suits.
One group of visitors wasn’t there for science, but for interior design. Two years ago, a trio of Ikea designers spent three days at the MDRS to develop Ikea products for small spaces. As it turns out, they ended up using their experience at the MDRS to help outfit the MDRS itself.