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Humans in Space

12/08/2009 6:00 PM Museum
Dava Newman, Sm '89, PhD '92, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems

Description: The future of space exploration is "the Moon, Mars, and beyond." For the human scientist"astronaut, "the issue is one of location and locale," according to Dava Newman.

The argument is no longer whether it's man vs. robot; rather it's how humans and robots will work together in missions throughout the solar system. Where exploration-getting out of a spacecraft and moving around-is the primary reason, humans will be sent. Otherwise, they may be tele operating a robot on a distant planet, carrying out experiments on an international space station, or working at Mission Control as experimenters and investigators. But humans will always be involved.

Nothing on Earth can truly mimic the environmental vagaries the astronauts will face on that distant planet or the challenges in getting there. Much of Newman's work in astronaut performance focuses on creating the BioSuit that will provide the necessary mobility, protection, and life support. The space travel itself creates further physiological deconditioning effects such as bone loss and other ravages of extended weightlessness. Newman cites four significant show stoppers to future space travel: radiation/exposure, bone loss, psychological effects ("playing well together") and immunology "because so little is known about what's out there."

Of additional interest to her audience were the issues of expense and time needed to get to a distant planet such as Mars and commercial applications here on Earth. Newman refers to NASA's $400 billion price tag and points to a lower $20 billion cost if supported by both government and private monies but run by non"governmental organizations. Commercial space flight offers similar exciting opportunities as well as risks and dangers. Medical/pharmaceutical applications such as growing crystals in the weightlessness of space or studying locomotion that would assist people with cerebral palsy are currently being considered.

Collaboration with other nations will ultimately provide on"going program funding since the future of space travel is more about human space travel and less about an individual nation's ability to build an entire program.

About the Speaker(s): Professor Dava Newman is currently the director of the Technology and Policy Program and a MacVicar Faculty Fellow at MIT. She is professor of Aeronautics and the Astronautics and Engineering Systems Division as well as an affiliate faculty in the Harvard"MIT Health, Sciences and Technology Division. Professor Newman's research contributes to the fundamental knowledge of human performance in extreme environments by interweaving biomechanics, human factors engineering, modeling, and design.

In the space environment, she quantifies astronaut motion and studies the subtle mechanisms underlying neuron"musculoskeletal adaptation, which are not easily studied on earth. She is currently developing her fourth space flight experiment, the MICRO"G experiment, which will fly on the International Space Station in a few years.

Newman is concurrently designing a revolutionary, advanced spacesuit for future exploration missions, the BioSuit System, which she targets for 2020. She has been honored with a NASA Manned Flight Awareness Team Award and a NASA Group Achievement Award. She is a recognized AIAA Distinguished Lecturer and recently received the National Aerospace Educator Award.

In addition to teaching classes in leadership and engineering at MIT, she has published and presented more than 200 papers in refereed journals and at conferences and other professional groups. She is a regular speaker and participant at engineering conferences given by groups such as the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and International Design for Extreme Environments Assembly (IDEEA) among many others. In 2001, she published her first book entitled Interactive Aerospace Engineering and Design.



Host(s): Office of the Provost, MIT Museum

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

Category: Events | Updated 14 days ago

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