HOUSTON. – 20 July 11
USRP Intern Discovers EMU Fashion
By: Heather L. Ogletree
Just as fashion design is ever-evolving, so is the fashion of space, the spacesuit. The first spacesuits were completely customized to each astronaut, and were only good for one mission. Now, through the evolution of spacesuit design and construction, there are reusable Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMU), which increase efficiency while decreasing the costs of spacesuit, or EMU, production. In all, the EMU consists of over 40 components and subcomponents, 14 protective layers and weighs approximately 250 pounds.
This spring, the Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP) chose Samantha McCue, a junior aerospace engineering student, to execute a 15-week project concerning space suit design with NASA Mentor Scott Cupples at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston.
Cupples explained, “Her main assignment was to develop a web page based on a large Excel spreadsheet that tabulated Shuttle Space Suit hardware failures. Despite having no prior experience in HTML development, Sam designed and built a searchable web interface that will enable engineers to analyze that historical EMU data so that they can improve designs for future space suits.”
McCue added, “I got to bring the hard work of 3 previous interns together into a format that can now be easily accessible to anyone across the agency.” From this she learned that interns do not always get to see the end product, which makes it important to keep the big picture in sight.
While at JSC, McCue also got to work on a Capabilities Matrix for the next-generation portable life support system and a “contingencies list” of requirements for the new space suit.
Before accepting her USRP internship, McCue was a little hesitant to take off a whole semester of school from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Since our junior and senior classes are arranged in a particular order, missing a semester can throw off your graduation plan,” said McCue. “Even though I will be graduating a semester later now, I would never take back my decision to accept this internship. It was the experience of a lifetime and I know that I am a better student because of my experiences at JSC.”
McCue caught the NASA bug in sixth grade when she completed a year-long project explaining the benefits of space technology here on Earth through Marshall’s Space Academy. She then attended Marshall’s Advanced Space Academy, and now, after going through USRP at JSC, she plans to attend graduate school for bioastronautics or humans in aerospace so that she may support future human space flight missions in the STEM industry.
Cupples commented, “I am extremely impressed with Samantha. She excelled at every task assigned to her, and sought out additional assignments. I appreciated her creativity and her ability to understand and use new information. She has impressed everyone in our office with her resourcefulness, positive attitude and ability to grasp and employ new material. She has a bright future ahead of her.”