Design of a Multipurpose Lunar Rescue Litter

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Sponsor: NASA

Date: Spring 2011

The Moon's surface is covered in a layer of lunar dust: a fine, extremely abrasive powder-like substance. This material can easily damage equipment and poses a health concern if inhaled, so mitigating the accumulation of lunar dust is of primary concern. Minimizing the mass and stored volume of any space-bound hardware should also be a priority given that extra storage capacity could always be used for additional survival supplies. The proposed design must also be ergonomic as it will be used by astronauts in spacesuits that have limited mobility.

NASA's future missions include the establishment of a permanent lunar habitat for scientific research and testing. To prepare for the possibility of astronaut incapacitation, NASA requires a method to safely and efficiently return injured crewmembers to the habitat.

The team designed a rescue litter that can withstand the harsh lunar environment and interface with existing lunar hardware while striving to minimize stored volume and dust accumulation. The geometry of the litter's features were determined from an empathic interview and designed to meet NASA's flight standards. The design incorporates a sled-like base constructed from a high strength engineering thermoplastic that would house the incapacitated astronaut's lower body. The inclined back support has a cutout for the astronaut's bulky survival backpack so that the passenger can be transported comfortably. This back support is made from a Teflon coated glass fabric attached to aluminum poles and handles that the rescuing astronaut would use to pull the litter. The back support collapses into the base through a hinge with positions for storage and operation. Attach points were incorporated so that rescue litter could be used in conjunction with a winch and crane.

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