NASA using crash test dummies to study water landings for Orion spacecraft

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Apr 11, 2016, 11:40 AM EDT

We’re still at least seven years away from a manned mission for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, but the space agency is already practicing for the inevitable splashdown once we (eventually) make it back from Mars.

NASA has ramped up a series of nine drop tests at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Scientists are strapping crash test dummies into the Orion’s crew capsule in an effort to better understand what the spacecraft and astronauts may experience when landing in the Pacific Ocean after deep-space missions. Hey, it might take us a while to get up there, but it’s never too early to start planning for a safe return.

The test found the capsule, along with the heat shield from the first unmanned space flight, hoisted approximately 16 feet above the water and vertically dropped into a 20-foot-deep Hydro Impact Basin. To see how the dummies handle the impact, they’ve all been outfitted to provide data to see how they can be kept safe during a re-entry. Why nine tests? Each one is a little different, designed to simulate different scenarios (i.e. wind conditions, wave heights, etc.).

Check out the drop test in action below and let us know what you think:


(Via NASA)