When a spacecraft travels through space, it requires an array of instruments to keep the shuttle crew safe. The distance and duration of the space travel demand the spacecraft to have systems that adhere to the following criteria:
- Reliability of the operation of the system far from home.
- The capability of keeping astronauts alive in case of an emergency.
- Portability of systems, to be light enough that rockets can launch it.
In this article, let us explore various equipment used during space travel.
1. Systems to Live and Breathe
The systems in the spacecraft must be reliable, consuming minimal mass and volume. Space shuttles are equipped with advanced control and life support systems that are required for deep space travel. Following are a few measures taken for the safe travel of astronauts:
- The carbon dioxide and humidity present inside the space shuttle is removed to ensure that the air inside is safe for breathing.
- Water condensation is prevented from occurring in-vehicle hardware to obstruct water intrusion into sensitive equipment and corrosion on the primary pressure structure.
- The compact designs of spacecraft not only maximize the available space for crew comfort but also increase the volume needed to carry consumables like enough food and water for the entirety of a mission lasting days or weeks.
- Preferred space foods are the ones that don’t crumble because weightless crumbs can clog up instruments and get in everyone’s way.
- Exercise equipment is needed to keep the astronauts in shape to counteract the zero-gravity environment in space that can cause muscle and bone atrophy.
- Humans can survive only a mere 15 seconds in the vacuum of space without a protective shell.
- Spacecrafts need solar sails that reflect photons helping them move forward.
2. Super High-Speed Optical Communication
One of the biggest problems with space exploration is the communication between the team working on Earth and the team exploring space. The space is vast, and communication between Earth and space takes longer than sending text messages to someone across the globe. NASA is working on a project which uses laser beams to transfer data between spacecraft and space stations on Earth with 10 to 100 times the speed currently available. Currently, it takes about 90 minutes to send a photo from Mars to Earth. If this project proves feasible, photos can be transferred in just 5 minutes.
3. Radiation Protectors
As the spacecraft travels beyond the protection of Earth’s magnetic field, it is exposed to harsher radiation than the low-Earth orbit. This higher atmosphere comprises greater amounts of radiation from charged particles and solar storms that can cause disruptions to critical computers, avionics, and other equipment. Humans exposed to such radiation experience acute and chronic health problems ranging from near-term radiation sickness to the potential of developing cancer in the long-term.
4. Safety Tethers
Safety tethers protect astronauts from becoming space junk. Astronauts working outside are attached at the waist to a 25-foot tether made of heat-resistant webbing. The tether attaches to a handrail built into a space station’s truss. The system includes a cable that reels out as needed.
These were a few types of equipment needed for safe space travel. These types of equipment need to be specifically designed for space, and they need to be hardened against the vacuum, resistant to extreme temperatures, and easy to use while wearing gloves. The space tools are one of the most challenging feats of engineering ever attempted.
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