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Extravehicular Mobility Unit Training and Astronaut Injuries

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Strauss S, Krog RL, Feiveson AH. Extravehicular mobility unit training and astronaut injuries. Aviat Space Environ Med 2005; 76:469–474.

Background: Astronaut spacewalk training can result in a variety of symptom complaints and possible injuries. This study quantified and characterized signs, symptoms, and injuries resulting from extravehicular activity spacesuit training at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, immersion facility. Methods: We identified the frequency and incidence of symptoms by location, mechanisms of injury, and effective countermeasures. Recommendations were made to improve injury prevention, astronaut training, test preparation, and training hardware. At the end of each test, a questionnaire was completed documenting signs and symptoms, mechanisms of injury, and countermeasures. Results: Of the 770 tests, there were 190 in which suit symptoms were reported (24.6%). There were a total of 352 reported suit symptom comments. Of those symptoms, 166 were in the hands (47.16%), 73 were in the shoulders (20.7%), and 40 were in the feet (11.4%). Others ranged from 6.0% to 0.28%, respectively, from the legs, arms, neck, trunk, groin, and head. Causal mechanisms for the hands included moisture and hard glove contacts resulting in fingernail injuries; in the shoulders, hard contact with suit components and strain mechanisms; and in the feet, hard boot contact. The severity of symptoms was highest in the shoulders, hands, and feet. Conclusions: Most signs and symptoms were mild, self-limited, of brief duration, and were well controlled by available countermeasures. Some represented the potential for significant injury with consequences affecting astronaut health and performance. Correction of extravehicular activity training-related injuries requires a multidisciplinary approach to improve prevention, medical intervention, astronaut training, test planning, and suit engineering.
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Keywords: astronaut training; extravehicular activity; spacesuit; systems engineering; training analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 May 2005

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