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Walking tall: UH student working on space suit redesign for NASA

HOUSTON, Feb. 5, 2007Space suits for astronauts may get a new and better design following a University of Houston doctoral student's locomotion stability research. Melissa Scott-Pandorf is a Fellow of the Texas Space Grant Consortium.

"NASA's mission to send humans back to the Moon is closer to a reality every day," Scott-Pandorf, a doctoral student in the UH Department of Health and Human Performance, said. "Astronauts will need to travel easily over the planet's terrain, meaning their mobility will be important for overall mission success."

To begin her study, Scott-Pandorf looked at hours and hours of lunar moon-walk video to determine how fast and how far astronauts traveled wearing all of the needed equipment. That information, combined with metabolic indicators collected while the astronauts worked on the lunar surface, was used to calculate the amount of energy expelled while walking on the moon. Scott-Pandorf said this is valuable information that will help NASA officials decide how much is too much to include on an astronaut's space suit.

"I can't tell you how many times I watched the astronauts fall down on the lunar videos," she joked. "Obviously, it isn't meant to be funny. But it's difficult for them to get up with the survival pack on their back and those bulky suits. We're hoping our new research projects will lead to a streamlined space suit that makes it easy to navigate the terrain."

As part of her new work, Scott-Pandorf uses a weight suspension system in the UH Laboratory of Integrated Physiology (LIP). The apparatus is used as a reduced gravity simulator that helps to evaluate locomotion stability. A subject is buckled into the suspension system and simply walks as Scott-Pandorf records data about the person's gait. With this system, she can investigate how mass distribution and pressure levels of the space suit may influence the ease in which astronauts travel a planet's terrain.

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Contact: Marisa Ramirez
mrcannon@uh.edu
713-204-9798
University of Houston
12-Feb-2007


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