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Gravity: Forgotten Space Escape Pod Could Bring Sandra Bullock Home Safe

Anticipating Sandra Bullock’s problems in Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar-winning feature gravity, a team of GE engineers proposed in the 1960s a design for a single-person space escape pod called Man Out of Space Easiest (later changed to Manned Orbital Operations Safety Equipment), or MOOSE.

The engineers designed MOOSE to weigh just 200 pounds and fit inside a suitcase-sized container. It used a small rocket motor for power and contained a PET film (the flexible silver-colored plastic material used by marathon runners and emergency crews) as a heat shield, two pressurized canisters filled with polyurethane foam, a parachute, radio equipment and a survival kit.

Astronauts in an emergency leave the craft wearing a space suit, climb inside the PET bag and fill it with the insulating foam. The motor, as shown in the diagram, sticks out of the bag and eases the astronaut into the atmosphere. Once the astronaut falls to about 30,000 feet above Earth’s surface, a parachute deploys and slows descent to 17 mph. This is when the foam comes into play, serving as a cushion for when the astronaut touches down (it could also be used as a flotation device should the person land in water). The astronauts would then use radio to signal rescuers.

MOOSE was intended only for extreme situations and the effort to realize the design was later abandoned. Many advances in materials and technology have occurred since then. Some of them were on display during daredevil Felix Baumgartner’s free-fall from the stratosphere last year.

imageimageIn the 1960s, a team of GE engineers proposed a design for a single-person space escape pod called Man Out of Space Easiest (later changed to Manned Orbital Operations Safety Equipment), or MOOSE. imageA detailed image of the escape pod. imageA concept drawing of escape capsule.

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