Engineering firm Charles Draper Laboratory has patented a “take me home” automatic rescue system that enables disabled or disoriented astronaut to return to safety just by pushing a button. This system will rescue the astronaut who went wrong into deep space with no way to get back or where no person can reach to rescue them.
We’ve seen lot of science fictions where an astronaut floats off into the infiniteness of space due to accident or carelessness during spacewalk while nothing happened in real life. NASA has spent over half century to develop various system to help astronauts save themselves in case of emergency.
The standard system is the Simplified Aid For EVA Rescue (SAFER) unit. It’s a simple U-shaped module installed on the astronaut’s life support pack. A bottle that contains pressurized nitrogen is installed at bottom while the arms hold tiny thrusters. The control unit on the chest allows the astronaut to jet back to safety in case losing during spacewalk. The only problem with the setup is that it doesn’t work if the astronaut is unconscious, confused, ill or blinded. To overcome this problem, the firm has developed a system that works like the automatic return on some upmarket drones where the press of button or a low battery charges causes to stop and then return to base.
As there is no GPS in space however it can be configured to work in a different ways. The sensors installed in this system can detect movement, acceleration or a change in position relative to a fixed location such as a spacecraft, and once activated. The system “take me to the home” also takes into the account time, oxygen consumption, safety and clearance requirements to calculate a route to return the person to safety using SAFER unit.
As per patent, the system could operate the rescue by itself by taking control of the thrusters or can provide the astronaut with visual auditory and sensory signals using sensors and helmet display. It can also be configured to handle a number of expected scenarios and to work accordingly.
Draper says that the “take me home” technology could be applied on Earth, aiding first responders, fire fighters, skydivers, and scuba divers in disorienting situations. This automatic astronaut rescue system has been funded by NASA.