Astronauts on the Moon will have extra “SuperLimbs”

Walking on the surface of the moon is quite difficult. This was shown by the astronauts of the Apollo mission half a century ago. The video shows how the astronauts awkwardly move by jumping, often stumble and fall, and then barely get up. The difficulty in moving on our natural satellite is that the gravity on it is only 1/6 of the earth’s.

Image of a spacesuit with additional arms that will help astronauts in conquering other planets of the Solar System. Illustration: MIT

To make traveling on the Moon safer and more comfortable for future astronauts, engineers have developed a robotic arm system that can be attached to a spacesuit to help in the event of a fall. These “SuperLimbs” will not only help astronauts walk, but also provide additional stability during tasks.

A team of engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology drew attention to this problem by watching videos with astronauts. They realized that the combination of bulky spacesuits and low gravity could lead to a loss of balance, which increased the risk of falling. This is because even in conditions of weak gravity, inertia remains the same, so a fall is inevitable.

Testing of a spacesuit with additional arms in the MIT laboratory

Engineers have developed a solution called Supernumerary Robotic Limbs – additional robotic arms that can be integrated into a spacesuit backpack and used if necessary. A working prototype of this system allows you to control the limbs. The manipulators have already been tested on a group of volunteers who wore mobility-limiting suits, imitating space suits.

During the testing, the volunteers tried to get up from a sitting or lying position, and the researchers watched them move in limiting suits. The suits have been customized to accurately simulate the rigidity of a space suit. Using these suits, the researchers got as close as possible to the actual test conditions. The movements of the volunteers in suits with limited mobility were similar to normal movements, but the effort was significantly less due to the use of “SuperLimbs”. Using data collected from volunteers, engineers have created an intelligent control system to ensure maximum efficiency. The system turned out to be so smart that it was able to detect the movements of people regardless of their position — on their side, back or stomach. Supernumerary Robotic Limbs are able to detect movement and provide appropriate assistance, taking into account the typical lifting from different positions. For example, arms provide additional support to make it easier for a future astronaut to climb.

The team hopes that the benefits of the system will not be limited to helping astronauts recover from a fall. By facilitating the ascent, astronauts will be able to conserve energy for other important tasks. With the launch of the Artemis mission and the return of man to the moon, it is quite possible that “SuperLimbs” will become standard equipment for spacesuits.

An early prototype of a spacesuit with additional arms in the MIT laboratory

Earlier, we reported on how astronauts began training in the desert before flying to the moon.

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