Please Remain Standing, You’re On Mars!

Tripping up and falling over on Mars could turn into a life threatening issue. With such vital things as air supply and life support equipment strapped onto both the front and back of space suits, falling over and possibly puncturing and damaging them becomes a concern. As we know, an astronaut’s visibility is limited due to his/her helmet. How are they supposed to see the obstacles in their path when they cant even see their own feet?

Allison Gibson, a Graduate Student at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, along with others have built and developed a boot which can sense obstacles from both close range and farther distances in an effort to aid in warning the astronauts of debris, rocks, or anything else in their paths while walking. The way these boots work, is that they are equipped with two sensors on each foot. One sensor is for sensing things at a closer distance, while the other is for sensing things at a farther distance. Once something has been picked up by the sensors, there is a little motor that causes a vibration in the boots by the big toe. The closer an astronaut gets to the object in his/her way, the more rapid and stronger the vibrations become. This keeping the astronaut upright and safe from the possibility of damaging their life support equipment.

I found this article interesting because while this boot was developed for astronauts’ and their safety on mars or missions alike, as discussed in the article, it can be used in many other fields. Firemen can use it to avoid obstacles in a smoked filled room when they cannot see anything. People with impaired vision or the blind may find it useful to gain instant physical feedback to better understand the world they are traversing. This truly intrigued me because this boot, while it was developed for such a detailed task, can truly benefit a general audience.


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