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Please think about tools for less or zero gravity - space

Posted by: Ekkehard Augustin - Thu Mar 31, 2005 8:21 am
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Please think about tools for less or zero gravity - space 
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Post Please think about tools for less or zero gravity - space   Posted on: Thu Mar 31, 2005 8:21 am
The article "Help Wanted: Space Colonists Need To Be More Than Astronauts
" ( www.space.com/adastra/adastra_tradesmen_050330.html ) says that "... Some of the first occupants of the various space stations such as Skylab and Mir found out that the usual tools are difficult to handle in the clumsy confines of a space suit, visibility is reduced or hampered by sunlight unfiltered by our atmosphere, and new tools had to be designed to work in a weightless environment. ..."

- clumsy confines of a space suit
- reduced visibility

What reasons more can you imagine which can cause problems in using usual tools?

Which new tools can you imagine? Which design should they have? Please invent some.



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Post    Posted on: Thu Mar 31, 2005 9:20 am
The trick is to minimize the need of special and very expensive equipement imo. Sure, you'll need to have these tools, but to minimize these numbers will be the best job. Humans aren't built for space, so we have to reshape space or our habitat in space to fit us.

The biggest problem is off course the hands. The will probably feel as twice with the space suite, so you would need to have large equipements to even handle it.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Mar 31, 2005 7:02 pm
Stefan wrote:
The trick is to minimize the need of special and very expensive equipement imo. Sure, you'll need to have these tools, but to minimize these numbers will be the best job.

True. One good way to do this is probably to make those 'special' tools that get sent up as multifunctional as possible. For example, consider an electric drill. By changing the bit attached to it it can be used for drilling, (un)screwing, grinding and even pumping (yes, I've seen drill-mounted pumps), cleaning (roto-rooter) and sawing (table-mounted circular saws).

A space-going drill would be a similar jack-of-all trades. The problem with fiddly drillbits could be overcome by mounting (and locking) them in interchangeable heads. The heads get mounted on the drill body with a chuck key that can only be removed when the head is properly mounted and locked onto the drill. The chuck key is also fitted with a line attached to the astronaut or his toolbox, so there is no chance of anything floating loose. The same goes for the drill body.

Going one step further, hand tools could be (partially) computerized and fitted with something like Bluetooth so that someone with a remote keypad (if it's oversized, a pad mounted on the astronaut's arm) can tell the tool perform functions not accessible on the housing due to size constraints. The drill above could be told to switch rotation direction or, on squeezing the trigger, to rotate the head precisely X degrees counterclockwise at A rpm, wait K seconds and then rotate it precisely Y degrees clockwise at B rpm. Antenna adjusting or safecracking in vacuum and zero G anyone? :D

Stefan wrote:
Humans aren't built for space, so we have to reshape space or our habitat in space to fit us.

Also true. This is one reason an enclosed presurized spacedock is a very good idea, at least to assemble the fiddly bits into subassemblies that can be taken outside and handled in vacuum.

Stefan wrote:
The biggest problem is off course the hands. The will probably feel as twice with the space suite, so you would need to have large equipements to even handle it.

With a suitable design this might surprise you. The main problem is probably the need for oversized handgrips and controls/triggers. People designing these things could potentially learn from people who design equipment, especially weapons kits, for use in arctic warfare. For example, I doubt that a gun that can't be loaded and fired while wearing heavy gloves (and can't be adapted to be) would be accepted by arctic warfare units.

In the case of (civilian) spacegoing power tools, moving some controls off-device would also help shrink them.

Cheers,
ErikM :twisted:


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Post    Posted on: Fri Apr 01, 2005 7:28 am
As far as I know one special problem not mentioned by the quoted article is to handle things like a normal hammer - because of its inert mass.

So there may be alternatives to remote handling or computerized handling which would make them more expensive and more massive too perhaps.

So what about providing hammers that a very lighter but strong too? What about a tool that can have the same effects but is not a hammer? A hammer hits a nail - what about a lighter tool that pushes or presses a nail?

What about such ideas concerning drilling, screwing, grinding, pumping, cleaning and sawing?

The actual tools are optimized for earthian gravity and earthian pressure - in space these optimizations are rather suboptimal it seems to me.



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Post    Posted on: Fri Apr 01, 2005 8:25 am
I think the concept of a hammer won't work very well in zero-g environment, and i think it won't be needed as much as a screwdriver. NASA allready has an electric screwdriver i think, so i think the concept wont be much different from theirs.

Concept of drilling will probably be like attaching the drill's grip to the surface that needs to be drilled, and then simply drill into the surface.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Apr 01, 2005 9:12 am
The hammer was an example only I remember being mentioned in an article I have been searching for but didn't find yet. This example has been used to illustrate the problems of handling tools in space that are handled on Earth easyly.

The discussion should go on as it goes - but who can add informations about the problems that ocurred in handling tools in space? What problems except those already mentioned have been reported?



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Post    Posted on: Fri Apr 01, 2005 10:22 am
What about an electric screwdriver with a cartridge containing different bits that are changed automatically by pressing a button, maybe something like a revolver gun with rotating compartments containing the bits.

Another thought, with the amount of dust around on the Moon and Mars cleaning and dust removal will be a requirement. Some sort of suction cleaner operating in a vacuum, possibly electro-static cleaning might work.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Aug 03, 2005 3:31 pm
Before the removal of some filler off the Space Shuttle's heat shield today it has been said that it will be tried by using the fingers first and by scissors etc. next. That method included the danger to hurt the heat shield.

This may be a concrete example a tool should be developed for that is optimized for zero-gravity, vacuum - space.

The filler would have been removed at reentry by the very fast movement of the air relative to the Shuttle. This may cause another catastrophy like Columbia's one. Couldn't that be the source of a tool which could be used to remove that filler? Could atool be developed which causes a tamed and locally constrained fast movement of air or a plasma perhaps which could be used in space to remove the filler withpout the danger of hurting the heat shield by the fingers or something like a scissors? Such a tool could be designed so that astronauts are safe. And the Shuttle wouldn't be in danger because it simply uses what the Shuttle is designed for - reentry conditions, which are tamed.

Could such a tool be used for other purposes too which are or could be of meaning in space?



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Post    Posted on: Thu Aug 04, 2005 12:48 pm
I'd be thinking more along the lines of a pair of pliers with rubberized tips so that they wouldn't scratch or damage the surrounding tiles.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Sep 18, 2005 12:23 pm
I remeber having said in anothzer thread that I one day read an article saying that a scientist or an engineer had found out that in space things could be moved by using radio waves but couldn't find the article and the person quoted.

This noon I recognized that the solution has been suggested and propsed already perhaps - but under quite another aspect: It's MagBeam.

Up to now MagBeam is a propulsion concept for accelerating a vehicle to 11.7 km/s for the Mars and decelerating it again by another beam coming from Mars. The beam will have to very long and very thick.

But if such a beam can be created - which would be very expensive - then a very small and short beam should be possible too - a beam just sufficient to move light or small things in orbit over distance no longer than a few meters or a few 10 meters.

What about that? And what about using three such small short beams in parallel in three dimensions to keep nearly complete control of the object to be moved without having to touch it or to move or hold it manually? Once the object is where it is wanted to be the beams could be switched off.

This would be the "start small" for Wingley's "think big" about MagBeam-propulsion.



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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 14, 2005 12:17 pm
Regarding the scientific result that in spce objects could be moved and handled by radio waves I still have to list a source. I couldn't find it when I mentioned it earlier but now I found it randomly.

It was an article under www.wissenschaft.de in 2002. It says that it can be done with objects the size of which is 5% of the wavelength applied:

- visible light can move nanoparticles
- microwaves can move millimeter- or centimeter-sized objects
- radiowaves of meters or kilometers wavelength wopuld have to be applied to move large heavy objects.

It's based on the nodes of static waves ("stehende Wellen" in German).

It's an idea of Narayanan Komerath, NIAC and has been published in the New Scientists from the 19th of October 2002 ( www.newscientist.com ).



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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 14, 2005 2:45 pm
One of the problems of operating tools in space is that the user is generally free floating. Suddenly, a twist of the screwdriver sends the user spinning not the screw.

I seem to remember reading about a design of a "thin" space suit that was only as thick as a wetsuit. It was still in development, but was showing promise. Instead of being a pressure suit that maintained a comfortable pressure inside, it was tight and squeezed the body so it didn't feel the reduced pressure.

Anyway, a new suit with all the improved visability and dexterity that it would bring makes more sense than designing new tools to get around the clumsy suit.

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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 14, 2005 4:27 pm
Sean: Yeah, it's a physically-pressurized suit. Think spandex and neoprene. Air's pumped in, but the suit itself keeps the air generally contained in the helmet area. This idea is also good for micrometeorite protection, since you can actually put some sort of armor on the outside, and not put the suit into the "I can't even move my arms" range. The idea's been around for a while, but I don't know about the progress of any research on it.

Ekke: Dr. Komerath is actually my advisor for a scholarship here at Tech -- next time I talk to him, I'll ask him about this. Could you give me your links, and I'll look for some local ones here at Tech, so I can research it a little more thoroughly?

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Post    Posted on: Tue Nov 15, 2005 7:00 am
Hello, spacecowboy,

that's a very very lucky opportunity.

Unfortunately besides the links already listed there is available additionally only the link to the german article titled "Mit Radiowellen tonnenschwere Objekte bewegen: Vision für Bautechnik im Weltraum": www.wissenschaft.de/wissen/news/149733.html .



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Post    Posted on: Tue Nov 15, 2005 7:27 pm
hehe -- I got you beat! Take a look here: http://www.adl.gatech.edu/research/tff/. Unfortunately, it looks like not all the relevant information has been posted. Blech.

[EDIT]Sigurd, I *hate* that auto-tagging system. Why, oh why, does it have to put everything at the end? I know, my mistake for using it.[/EDIT]

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