This summer, the GrabCAD Community hosted a NASA challenge that asked participants to design a common restraint and mobility aid system that works in four gravity environments.
Almost everyone knows that astronauts need handrails, foot holds, and work area restraints to get around in microgravity environments; however, did you know that even with gravity, astronauts still need safety railings, steps or ladders?
“This problem is in support of the Common Habitat, an exploratory design study seeking to develop a single habitat architecture that functions on the Moon, Mars, in microgravity transit, and as an Earth trainer/analog,” explains NASA.
As you can see, the need for a common solution that is helpful in all four gravity environments is essential, and once again, the GrabCAD Community met the challenge, submitting over 100 design solutions.
“The challenge submissions are very valuable to the Common Habitat Study," adds NASA. "It is thrilling that working with GrabCAD gives people around the world who are not affiliated with NASA an opportunity to apply their own creativity to human spaceflight.”
Below, we announce the winners!
NASA Challenge Winners
First Place: Daedalus Project
“We were looking for the lightest maneuverable solution that best fit the competition design guidelines and regulations,” explains Abner Uriel Gómez García, one of the team members who helped design the Daedalus Project.
“The exoskeleton design was inspired by existing Robotic Exoskeletons for patients with motor disabilities or spinal injuries. When designing the concept for the boots, our team veered away from systems involving suction or magnetism due to the high energy consumption.
The elevator was inspired by the linear movement of a nut when it is rotating on the thread of a bolt.”
NASA really liked this entry for its ability to address restraint, mobility and stability in 0g and transition to a gravity environment.”
Second Place: Restraint Chair and Folding Ladder.
“We wanted to keep our designs as minimal as possible," explains Aniruddha Nayak, team member. "Our folding ladder design was inspired by pulldown attic ladders, and our suction mechanism for the chair was inspired by the locking mechanism on table top hand juicers.”
NASA also agreed with the simplicity: “This is a very well thought out system. The simplicity and adjustability of it is very innovative. Restraint seat that can work in all gravity and a folding ladder system that can be reconfigured to a closed hatch.”
"We had a blast when we were working on our designs", the team adds. "We had never worked on RMA systems before so it was a very new experience for both of us. We tried to give as much attention to detail as possible in our CAD models and also tried to render our models in all the different scenarios and viewing angles possible so that we could communicate our idea with the Jury as clearly as possible.”
Third Place: Gecko Feet Shoes
“I wanted to give the astronauts a tool that would allow them to walk and stand at will, hands free for other manipulations,” explains Rabah Slimani. “Two solutions came to mind: the gecko feet and octopus’s tentacles. Two solutions that gave those animals an outstanding advantage in their respective environment.”
NASA thought this was a great solution, particularly because it is “most effective on smooth surfaces, and smooth surfaces are preferred from a dust mitigation standpoint.”
They also agreed that using nature as an inspiration was a fun idea.
Fourth Place: Integrated Slot and Cleat RAM System
“Excellent understanding of proper process of design that is based on identified use cases. I especially like the 'embedded' handhold extrusion for mobility in microgravity. I imagine that this concept would work for lunar gravity as well for stability.” -- NASA
Fifth Place: Multipurpose Peg and Rail System
“I liked how the design solution should be something you could see used in your own home,” explains Trevor Tietgen. “I was inspired by technologies used in machine shops because they are simple, effective and already used on a daily basis by shop personnel.”
According to NASA, this was “one of the best submitted proposals for fall protection."
So what happens next for these designs? According to NASA, there are elements in each of the winning ideas that can be extracted and combined to form a multi-gravity restraints and mobility aids system that will be incorporated into the Common Habitat design!
New NASA Challenges
NASA continues to reach out to the GrabCAD Community for their creativity and innovative ideas:
“GrabCAD is a valuable resource in finding solutions using their community of innovative experts,” explains Steven Rader, Deputy Manager of NASA's Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI). “We're as excited to have more people contributing to the space program as they are to have a chance to be part of it.”
We encourage the Community to continue to check our Challenges section to keep up to date on any new challenges. In fact, we just announced another NASA challenge: An Advanced Lightweight Lunar gantry for Operations.
For this challenge, NASA is challenging the Community to design a mobile lunar gantry based on a structural framework of inflatable structural components.
“The competition creates an amazing environment for growth and development, and the Community, as always, is very friendly.” Abner Uriel Gómez García