To venture into the vacuum of space and stroll on the moon or Mars, astronauts need a suit that maintains the proper atmospheric pressure, oxygen levels and temperatures. But moving in a suit of pressurized air isn’t a walk in the park. “It’s similar to working in a balloon, and astronauts are easily fatigued,” explained Dr. Bonnie Dunbar.
As the head of Texas A&M’s Aerospace Human Systems Lab, Dunbar is leading a team to create a suit with enhanced mobility that can be custom designed to fit each person perfectly. “If astronauts are conducting research on the moon for six hours in a vacuum, it’s important that they’re not fatigued from working against the spacesuit itself,” she said.
A former astronaut who’s logged five trips to space, Dunbar is also involved in projects across the university that study various physical challenges the body experiences in low gravity. To examine these effects without leaving the planet, she recently helped Aggieland gain a centrifuge, which spins participants to simulate low gravity through centrifugal force.
Thanks to a gift from Roku CEO Anthony Wood ’87 through the Greater Houston Community Foundation, this valuable tool will be upgraded to become a world-class centrifuge that could help the university collaborate more closely with NASA on future research. “The bigger picture is to help Texas A&M become a major player in human spaceflight,” Dunbar said, “and I’m grateful to the Wood family for helping make this vision come true.”