NASA is nearing the completion of its preparations to return humans to the lunar surface. However, in order to ensure that lunar technology is thoroughly tested before being launched into space, NASA has turned to an air gun to test the durability of spacesuit material.
At the Ballistical Impact laboratory in Glenn Research Center, NASA engineers shoot prototype space suits with a 40-foot aircraft gun that fires 3,000-feet per second to replicate extraterrestrial risks such as micrometeorite hits. In addition, the gun has been used to test situations ranging from the effects of bird strikes to ballistic impacts on spacecraft during launch.
“If the object is pressurized, a leak can be catastrophic depending on how big and fast the leak is,” said Mike Pereira, the Ballistic Impact Lab’s technical lead, in a NASA statement. “Running this type of ballistic impact test is essential to a variety of NASA aeronautics and space exploration missions to ensure equipment and materials reliability.”
The scientists shot the ballistics in a near-slip to effectively replicate the Moon and record the hit with high-speed cameras. Furthermore, the team is looking into materials that future astronauts could utilise to build permanent shelters.
In a separate experiment, the team dropped artificial Moon rocks upon spacesuit materials to observe how they fared.
Pereira and its team are continuously analyzing data to select the finest spacesuit fabric and materials for NASA’s next Artemis missions.
It’s a significant step in the long process of bringing US astronauts back to the lunar surface. But, as if getting to the Moon wasn’t risky enough, being bombarded by micrometeorites while taking a stroll on the Moon sounds much more so.