LSAM mock-up revealed

by Chris Bergin

While Constellations efforts continue to focus on turning the Ares I launch vehicle into a reality, testing of the elements that will allow NASA astronauts return to the moon have already started.

This was revealed in a new set of images which shows technicians testing out the mobility of NASA’s Mk III Exploration Suit inside a mock-up of the LSAM (Lunar Surface Access Module).
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The set of high resolutions images showed geologist Dean Eppler in the Mk III Suit, conducting what appears to be volumetric and cockpit checks inside the LSAM mock-up as a suited crew member. No notes accompanied the set of images which were acquired by this site’s L2 section at the end of 2006.

The suit itself consists of hard upper torso, brief and hip transition elements, and rolling convolute shoulder, waist and hip abduction/adduction joints. It also offers upper arm, shoulder, hip, waist, and ankle bearings.

Despite being the heaviest, it offers the best mobility to the user, which will be vital for NASA’s exploration plans. Mk III hybrid suit isn’t a brand new concept, with work dating back to 1987.

Eppler noted back in July of 2006 that trails of the suit in Arizona that ‘fit and flexibility are the keys to exploration productivity on a planetary surface,’ to ‘It’s a comfortable fit inside; my heart rate levelled out at about 100-110, but the boots still need work,’ he added after the summer tests.

Whether this spacesuit will be the design that will become the standard for NASA’s ambitions to return to the moon in the next decade is yet to be seen, with the MkIII mainly being used as a template on requirements.

‘Between now and 2012 we will try to fill in the gaps in what we need to know about designing a next-generation surface suit.’ added Eppler during his comments to AIAA.

However, what may be classed as more interesting than the suit in the images is the mock-up of the LSAM, which is simply that, a mock-up, given the final design will need to accommodate four crew members.

The LSAM can be seen located next to a mock-up of the Orion capsule, which recently highlighted the internal design to the spacecraft that will replace the Space Shuttle, around 2014.

The mock-up is a wooden construction which stays true to current designs that have been released by NASA Constellation, with a middle part of the structure showing the ascent engine cover, meaning the astronauts will be located at stations around the perimeter of the module’s interior.

Further insights can be spotted on the wall of the building where the suit tests were conducted, with images showing a four member crew in their positions inside the LSAM. While there has been no word from NASA on a proposed interior of the LSAM, the mock-up appears to be the current thinking on the location of the crew stations on the module.

Also spotted, by ‘blowing up’ the large high resolution images are sketches of the moon base, which NASA went to great lengths to publicize recently. However, the sketches appear to be unreleased conceptual drawings, showing lunar habitats, and an ‘awning’ shelter for landed equipment.

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