Draper Laboratory develops wearable device
By the early 2030s, if predictions hold, NASA will be sending humans to Mars.
And Draper Laboratory, a non-profit research organization based in Cambridge, will play an integral part in making sure the spacecraft that sends the crew to the Red Planet is built properly.
As part of a deal with NASA, Draper will develop wearable devices that can be used to monitor astronauts’ location and orientation as they move around the International Space Station. NASA will collect the data and develop three-dimensional models of the crew’s use of the interior of the spacecraft, which will affect how NASA builds future shuttles — specifically on longer-duration missions such as the one to Mars. All of this data will be used to build a better spacecraft.
Séamus Tuohy, director of space systems at Draper, said that building a spacecraft is a lot more complicated than building a home. In a home, the kitchen is designed to be next to the dining room — but in a spacecraft, the interior is a lot more complicated with multiple people doing multiple tasks in different areas.
“If we know that someone is going to run a certain experiment from 1 to 2, we can correlate where the person was when they were doing the experiment,” he said. “It’s nice to correlate those movements with the activity.”
Tuohy said the goal is to get a prototype of the device — which uses optical sensors along with algorithms — in about two years. At that point, NASA would testtest is test the device on the ground and then the International Space Station, which has about the same amount of space as a 2,000-square-foot home.