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NASA’s X1 Suits Up for Missions on Earth as Well as in Space

 

R2 inspired X1 exoskeleton may help paraplegics with mobility as well as astronauts on deep space missions. Image Credit/NASA and IHMC

 

Space technology can be as much about improving life on Earth as exploring new worlds.

Robonaut 2, the first humanoid in space and a joint effort between NASA and automaker GM, has been living aboard the International Space Station for more than a year. There, engineers are exploring ways to make interactions between humans and robots, whether they are assisting astronauts or assembling cars on Earth, as safe as possible.

Now, R2 has a terrestrial “spin off,”   X1 that may help astronauts and humans in even other ways.

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams with Robonaut 2, or R2, aboard the International Space Station. Photo credit/NASA

X1 is a prototype exo-skeleton,  a 57 pound mechanized  device worn over the legs and strapped around the shoulders.

Astronauts could find future versions of X1 helpful in maintaining their leg muscles during long periods of weightless. During exercise, the device would provide resistance, as though they were running, pedaling of swimming on Earth.

R2 cleans a handrail aboard the International Space Station. Photo credit/NASA

A future version of X1 may also help astronauts scale hills or cover lots of ground on planetary bodies.

 . S.military is also deploying exo-skeletons to help soldiers carry heavy loads over long distances or difficult terrain.

The X1 may offer paraplegics new mobility.

“Robotics is playing a key role aboard the International Space Station and will be critical in our future human exploration of deep space,” said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA’s Space Technology Program.” What’s extraordinary about space technology and our work with projects like Robonaut are the unexpected possibilities space tech spin-offs may have right here on Earth.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center is working with the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition of Pensacola, Fla., on X1 development.

“We greatly value our collaboration with NASA,” said Ken Ford, IHMC’s director and CEO, in a statement. “The X1′s high-performance capabilities will enable IHMC to continue performing cutting-edge research in mobility assistance and expand into rehabilitation.”

Meanwhile, researchers at in the Human Health and Performance Directorate at NASA’s Johnson Space Center are joining with Epiomed Therapeutics of Irvine,Calif., to launch clinical trials of a nasal spray for the treatment of  motion sickness.

The medication, scopolamine, may also address some of the ill effects that accompany cancer treatments.

The medication has long been available to NASA astronauts who experience motion sickness as their bodies adjust to weightlessness. Many do.

The clinical trails are a Federal Drug Administration requirement.

“NASA and Epiomed will work closely together on further development of INSCOP to optimize therapeutic efficiency for both acute and chronic treatment of motion sickness which can be used by NASA, the Department of Defense and world travelers on land, in the air and on the seas,” said Lakshmi Putcha, developer of the innovative treatment strategy at Johnson.

 

 

 

 

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