And you thought crash test dummies had the toughest job in the world. These dummies may have the toughest job in the universe.
NASA’s Langley Research Center just released footage (above) of how its dummies boldly go where no dummies have gone before — and it's spectacularly brutal.
Of course, we’re not talking about a family sedan here. Crashing into a wall to test seat belts is far too pedestrian for these humanoids. Instead, NASA’s human dolls are put in situations that simulate a rocket smashing into the ground. Or a shuttle smacking into the sea.
The dummies are humanesque in height and weigh anywhere between 105 and 220 pounds. Most importantly, they’re outfitted with a battery of sensors — which means, unlike their car-testing cousins, these dummies are expected to make it through the ordeal in one piece.
"The instrumentation has gotten a lot smaller. You can now put a entire suite of sensors just in the back of this head," structural impact dynamics engineer Martin Annett says in the clip.
That’s where the real science begins. Their super-tough bodies don’t go full-smithereen on impact, instead they absorb impacts and relay the minutest of data to scientists.
"Most of the time that we’re doing a crash test, everything that you really want to know about injury occurs in anywhere from one-tenth to four-tenths of a second. So we have to be able to capture a lot of data within that time frame," Annett says.
The goal, however, isn’t that far flung from the basic motive for car safety tests: Engineers aim to build the perfect Volvo ... for space.
To do that, they glean data from complex sensors riddled throughout the dummies — information that can be used to build safer space suits and crafts that keep astronauts safe when being slung into space or returning to terra firma.
So maybe, in between gawking at the sheer spectacle of these demolition dummies, we should take a moment to give them their due.
After all, they’re the unknown stuntmen who make space exploration possible.