Faculty and students at Florida Polytechnic University are developing a critical component for the next generation of spacesuits that will not only make astronauts more comfortable and efficient, but will also keep them happy.
Depression is a major problem in space, as astronauts can be adversely affected by factors like insufficient exercise, excessive exposure to light and lack of sleep. With that in mind, Florida Poly professors Dr. Arman Sargolzaei and Dr. Melba Horton, along with Computer Science student James Holland, are developing a product called Smart Sensory Skin (S3).
The new technology will detect emotional and physical deficiencies in astronauts through wireless sensors that will then send an immediate response to improve the “atmosphere”, and adjust the astronauts’ environment to fit their individual needs. The adjustments include changes in temperature, light exposure, light color, and oxygen levels.
“It’s vital for astronauts to be mentally healthy during missions and right now there’s no active, real-time solution to help them when they feel stressed or anxious,” said Dr. Sargolzaei, professor of Electrical Engineering.
“This technology would provide them with immediate relief to their state of mind,” Sargolzaei added.
The eventual product will incorporate the wireless sensors into astronaut clothing, so that physicians on Earth can also monitor the person’s pulse rate, blood pressure and joint angles. Similar technology already exists, but it is cumbersome, often uncomfortable, and data collection is passive. This means the data must be reviewed by a physician and the user can only make appropriate actions after his or her recommendation.
The S3 will be a step forward by making it an active technology, also lighter and more ergonomic, increasing mission effectiveness by reducing distractions.
The innovative research, in collaboration with UCLA professor Saman Sargolzaei, won a grant from NASA’s Florida Space Research Program for its continuing development with the end goal of making astronauts happier, safer, fitter, and more productive.
“This project started as an assignment when I was a freshman, and I never expected it to grow the way it has,” said Holland, a junior from Land O’ Lakes, Florida. “I’m excited to see what we can accomplish as our research continues.”
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