How cool is this?
Hey, NASA and the Russian Space Agency did an experiment today where they let loose a dummy suit with a radio transponder in to track what the signal would be like if an astronaut was in free fall from the space station. The specially rigged suit, called “SuitSat” has a low powered radio that is designed only to be powered from suit power.
The SuitSat is in trouble! It was launched about FOUR HOURS ago and already the signal is failing… check this out from the tracking website at SuitSat.Org:
I’m afraid the prospects for SuitSat are looking very poor, one of the stations reporting a barely detectable carrier is using large steerable antennas and a preamp, the signal should have been MUCH stronger than this.
The neat element of the SuitSat experiment was that NASA communicated this experiment to the worldwide HAM radio community in advance, setting up a large network of amateur tracking stations. Here’s a map of the suit’s progress so far.
I think this was a fun little experiment, that didn’t cost much* and may tell us much about what might happen to a human being who gets cut off the tether by accident. I’m hoping that NASA releases some of the video from the experiment.. what I saw on the news is positively eerie. You don’t normally see a human figure from the perspective of “miles away” in space, and the last recorded images of SuitSat were of this diminutive little human form, tumbling towards Earth… yowch!
* Costs: NASA and the RSA didn’t drop a big dime on this one– just an old Russian cosmonaut suit and some relatively low tech radio gear. Very elegant indeed!