Other worlds are not the only difficult terrain personnel must traverse in human exploration of the solar system. There are some parts of our own planet that are inhospitable and difficult to travel to. Inner Mongolia, a northern province of China, would certainly be classified as one of these areas, especially in winter. But that is exactly what the members of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC) field team had to traverse on December 16 to obtain lunar samples from the Chang & # 39; e-5 mission. What's even more unique is that they did it with the help of exoskeletons.
Oddly enough, the workers who wore the exoskeletons weren't there to help with a difficult mountain climb or even to pick up the payload of the lunar lander itself (which weighed just 2kg). A communication tent was to be set up to reconnect the field service team with the CASTC headquarters in Beijing.
Youtube video describing the exoskeleton technology used by the Change-5 recovery team.
Photo credit: Bloomberg Quicktake
The exoskeletons were designed to help people wear about twice as much as they could. Local state media described a single person carrying 50 kg over 100 m of rough terrain without getting tired. However, setting up communication devices is not suitable for all exoskeletons. They were last used by Chinese military logistic and medical personnel in the Himalayas, where the country knocked down the Indian military over a controversial line of control.
One advantage of these workers was that they did not have to charge their suits. The exoskeletons used for the Chang & # 39; e-5 mission were not powered. Given the harsh environment in which the suits will be used, this was a conscious design decision. Bad weather can turn off electrical systems, and a powered exoskeleton without a battery just becomes heavier than a helpful tool. However, they are less useful in eliminating fatigue without the added pressure of electric motors.
Wired video describing types and uses of exoskeletons.
Photo credit: Wired Youtube Channel
Powered or not, this will certainly not be the last time such suits will be used for space exploration missions. Similar technology could help future space explorers navigate even less hospitable environments outside the world. The suits would just have to go with a rocket first.
South China Morning Post: Chang's 5 salvage team uses exoskeletons to support the mission
UT: China's Chang & # 39; e-5 probe lands on the moon and will be ready to bring back fresh samples
Mission statement: Recovery team that manages the return capsule.
Photo credit: Xinhua.