Desert RATS Prepare for the Moon

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Desert RATS Prepare for the Moon
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Hi, Phil West with NASA out here near Flagstaff, Arizona at Cinder Lake.

You know, NASA is building spacecraft to send astronauts back to the moon. This is the Orion crew exploration vehicle, and it will be used to send six astronauts to the space station around 2015 and four astronauts to the moon around 2020.

Why am I out here in the Arizona desert? We're testing spacesuits and rovers and tools right here to try and simulate what it's going to be like when the astronauts go back to set up this lunar outpost around the year 2020.

Now, this whole activity is led by a guy that has an amazing name. Let's take a look at him. His name is Joe Kosmo. How's that for a NASA name. I literally walked into the door at NASA about 20 years ago and they said, "you're working for Joe Kosmo." I called my mom that night and said, "I'm working for Joe Kosmo at NASA! This is so cool!"

That's Joe. He runs the shop, and he works with younger engineers. Frank Delgado, who's working on the rover. Amy Ross, who works with him on spacesuits. Other folks out here that are learning how to make this work when we go back.

You know, when we went to the moon the first time, it was just to scratch the surface. And we had a great capability, but it was limited. We've learned a lot more. We can have robots interact with people, and that's what we're out here testing in the desert.

In this case you see, in the airlock here, some folks getting ready to suit up in two spacesuits -- the Mark III spacesuit and the I spacesuit. They will step out on the surface here shortly. In fact we've got some shots of some testing that was done recently, just the other day out here, where the Mark III spacesuit is walking out of the airlock area over to the SCOUT rover.

The SCOUT rover is really amazing. It can drive autonomously by GPS from spot to spot. It can be driven remotely from places like Houston. In fact, they've been doing that here in the test that's going on this week. And it can be driven by the test subjects in their spacesuits around, on the facility, here on the grounds.

You can see the rover's quite substantial in size -- the astronaut there in the spacesuit. Now spacesuits ... I want to show you one thing about spacesuits. Spacesuits are not just heavy fabric. They're big balloons shaped like your body, OK. So see how stiff this is? This is an elbow joint, right. It's not just heavy fabric, and it doesn't work unless you do things to design it just right.

So you have to behave like a geologist when you're on the moon and the spacesuit has to let you do that. There's an elbow joint. It doesn't bend backwards, which is fine, but it does bend forwards, which is great because my elbow bends that way. It's got a ball bearing to let you rotate the wrist, and in fact, if you're in a spacesuit. Next time you're in a spacesuit, you can always do this, to kind of freak out your friends. Watch this -- you put your hand up inside and go "aaaagggh!"

Gets them every time.

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