CT scanner maps potential problems inside spacesuit
The empty spacesuit that sat on the operating table in a lab at Houston Methodist Hospital’s research institute made for an unusual patient.
The space gear ended up in the state-of-the-art research lab after NASA sought innovative ways to pinpoint problems with its suits in the wake of an Italian astronaut nearly drowning in his helmet during a 2013 spacewalk on the International Space Station. It happened when debris clogged a pump mechanism inside his spacesuit.
NASA hopes the lab’s advanced imaging equipment, including a CT scanner attached to a robotic arm, can help create 3-D pictures of its spacesuits that can be used to better diagnose malfunctions.
Luca Parmitano, the Italian astronaut who survived the harrowing spacesuit experience, told the Associated Press that the work NASA and the hospital are doing is a step forward in preventing others from going through what he faced.
The imaging technology was demonstrated at “Pumps & Pipes,” an annual conference that brings three of Houston’s biggest industries— medicine, energy and aerospace— together to discuss technologies that could be shared by the fields.
Dr. Alan Lumsden, medical director of the Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center who led the demonstration, told the AP that the techniques used in endovascular surgery to examine problems with blood vessels are the same methods that can diagnose future problems with spacesuits.
Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, who survived a spacesuit malfunction, attended the demonstration at which a NASA spacesuit was scanned last week.