No Moon Dust Allowed!
Several Industrial Design students and recent graduates helped NASA tackle a problem that needs to be solved before the next manned mission to the moon: how to keep astronauts from carrying potentially harmful moon dust into their lunar lander. Keeping the spacecraft free of moon dust is more than just a housekeeping concern: the fine, sharp grains pose potentially serious health threats if they’re inhaled, and could prove equally dangerous to mechanical and electrical systems. Apollo astronauts were covered in dust after their moon walks; the longer and more frequent walks anticipated with the next mission make finding a solution crucial.
Investigation in the NASA summer research project focused on the design of a “suitlock” – an airlock that uses astronauts’ space suits as an integral element in dust mitigation. As part of the internship, the RI Space Grant Consortium supported a visit from industry expert Phil Spampinato, a product manager for the space suit manufacturer ILC Dover. As he surveyed the sketches and mock-ups that the team had been working on, he confirmed that their research was on the right track. “This is good stuff,” he noted. “You’re doing the right things to think differently from NASA designers,” who are often “encumbered by what has been done in the past.”
As part of the Industrial Design Department’s longstanding Design for Extreme Environments course, students and faculty continue their ongoing partnership with NASA as they explore design for human-focused aspects of spacecraft and habitats.