NASA, known for its bold, forward-thinking ideas, developed a rather unusual emergency device called the Personal Rescue Enclosure, or PRE back in the 1970s. This curious invention was designed to assist astronauts in the event of an emergency, such as a breakdown on a space station.
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Personal Rescue Enclosure: what is it?
ThePRE, nicknamed the 'rescue ball' by Joe Biden, was a large sphere made of fabric. It was incredibly small in diameter, measuring just 91 centimetres, and had a volume of 0.33 cubic metres.
Despite its modest dimensions, this ball of fabric was equipped with a small window that allowed astronauts to take a look at the immensity of the universe.
However, the PRE had some major drawbacks which earned it the reputation of being the worst spacesuit ever invented. First of all, it offered very little space for an astronaut. Movement was very limited, making for an uncomfortable experience.
What's more, the PRE had no propulsion and had to be carried manually by another astronaut in a spacesuit. Not fit for a real emergency ... And to top it all off, the PRE's zipper could only be operated from the outside. In other words, if you found yourself trapped inside and no one could come to your aid, you were condemned to remain locked inside this strange device.
A prototype abandoned by NASA
Faced with these insurmountable challenges, NASA finally decided to abandon the ERP at the prototype stage. Astronauts therefore opted to use traditional spacesuits on their missions, such as the famous EVA suit, which are equipped with thrusters. These suits, already present on board the space shuttles, got rid of the need for a separate escape capsule.
In the end, NASA opted for simplicity and efficiency, sending astronauts aboard the space shuttles wearing their usual space suits. This way, they were ready to face any eventuality without the constraints of the ERP.
Astronauts now have suits, which are much more practical
Although the idea of the ERP was quite original, it was clearly not adapted to the needs of astronauts. Nevertheless, NASA continues to explore new ideas and technologies to ensure the safety and well-being of our space explorers. Perhaps one day, another revolutionary solution will emerge to ensure the rescue of astronauts lost in space. Research and innovation are the watchwords of space exploration, and NASA is never short of ideas for pushing back the boundaries.
In the end, although the ERP proved to be an impractical and unsuitable idea, it is a testament to the ingenuity and courage of those seeking to ensure astronaut safety in extreme environments. Every failure is an opportunity to learn and progress towards better, more effective solutions.
As we marvel at the wonders of space, let's remember that every space mission is the result of years of research, trial and error. NASA and other space agencies will continue to explore new technologies and push back the frontiers of knowledge to make space exploration even safer and more exciting.
This article has been translated from Gentside FR
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