- Draper Labs is developing a ‘take me home’ button for spacesuits to help guide lost or unconscious astronauts back to their base in space!
- Currently, astronauts on spacewalks are tethered to the International Space Station, but if they become disconnected, they can use a jet backpack called SAFER, which is manually controlled (problematic if lost or unconscious).
- Due to difficulties in using GPS to pinpoint a location in space, Draper had to design a system capable of determining an astronauts location relative to the return point.
- The return trajectory needs to take into account distance, oxygen and safety considerations.
- Naturally, Draper recognised that many situations are likely to involve an unconscious or disoriented astronaut.
- Draper says the emergency button would either guide the astronaut back to the ISS (via sensors or directions in the visor display), for example, or result in the autonomous operation of the jetpack.
- The button could be activated by the astronaut or crew (in space, or on Earth).
- The patent has only recently been filed – but given that NASA co-funded the project, the technology might be available sooner than we think.
- Draper Lab is an engineering company with a record in creating technology for spaceflight.