LESA Is the Lunar Pulley That Can Save an Astronaut That's Fallen on the Moon

We haven't spent all that much time on the moon. Only 12 people have ever set foot on the lunar surface, after all. But when we do finally return, we'll want to make sure we've planned for every possibility. In the event of an emergency, NASA is making sure our astronauts will be ready to respond.

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!

Stubbing your toe and falling to the ground is no big deal (on Earth, anyway). When an astronaut wipes out, getting back on their moon boots is decidedly more difficult. Having a buddy doesn't make it much easier. Spacesuits don't quite allow for even the most basic agility.

"In a spacesuit, the movements are limited and your reaching capabilities are limited," Hervé Stevenin, the head of the European Space Agency's Neutral Buoyancy Facility Operations, tells Popular Science. "Even with the new ones, you cannot kneel down with both knees on the floor, which means you can't take the guy on your shoulder and carry him back to the safe haven."

Not to mention the gravity situation. The moon has a lower  pull than Earth, but it's still significant enough to make carrying a full-grown adult quite the to-do. This is also the reason attaching a tether to a fallen astronaut and yanking them to safety won't work like it does on ISS spacewalks. #MoonProblems

Hoist Me Up, Scotty

In October 2016, Stevenin, who helps train European Space Agency astronauts for spacewalks, designed a system called the Lunar Evacuation System Assembly (LESA). This thing is basically a pulley system that looks like a four-legged tripod (uh, quadpod?). Once an astronaut notices their astrobuddy is down, they can grab LESA and set it up above the hurt companion. LESA will them hoist the astronaut up, and the able-bodied astronaut can strap them to a wheeled stretcher that's on the bottom of LESA. Then, boom, the fallen lunar explorer can easily be wheeled to safety.

Stevenin is pretty confident in LESA's effectiveness. While it has yet to be tested or used on the moon, it underwent a successful test during an underwater training exercise. Yes, underwater. Because of the moon's extreme and unusual conditions, the ocean floor is one of the most comparable environments we have here on Earth. LESA was tested during NASA's 22nd Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO-22) held at the Aquarius research base in the Florida Keys.

NEEMO 21: An analogue mission to Mars

Written by Joanie Faletto November 13, 2017

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