The University of Canberra (UC) have secured a grant to develop a space-friendly technology to be used at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and European Space Agency (ESA).
The $432,000 grant from the Australian Space Agency will allow the University to create a wearable device to combat sensorimotor disturbances experienced by astronauts who spend more than four weeks in space.
Leading researcher and UC Professor of Sports Medicine, Dr Gordon Waddington, said the disturbances could be likened to a ‘dead leg’.
“You would know if you have ever had a dead leg when you get off the couch that you’re pretty likely to fall over or it’s hard to get going – it’s a lot like that,” he said.
“They get out of practice using their lower limbs while they are in space, but they need to be able to get mobile when they get to where they are going.”
UC will form a spin-out company, Prism Neuro, to collaborate with Australian companies, elmTEK and SRC Health, to create the technology.
Melbourne-based SRC Health will help to develop the wearable compression sock, which will feature a textured surface and aims to improve the performance and rehabilitation of astronauts returning to Earth.
Dr Waddington said the grant would create jobs in the space industry within Canberra, and the technology would be transferrable to other trades.
“With NASA’s plans to return to the moon in 2024, this technology will reduce the risk of human-impaired control of spacecraft and associated systems following extended periods of weightlessness during spaceflight,” he said.
“The flow-on effect is that it is not only going to be a useful technology for the space industry but can also be used by athletes to reduce injury or for rehabilitation.
“It can also help reduce the risk of falls in the elderly which, in turn, increases quality of life.”
ACT Senator Zed Seselja backed the grant, saying it would shine a light on the region.
“Canberra is home to some brilliant minds, and it is fantastic to see our researchers recognised with this grant,” Senator Seselja said.
“We have a rich connection with space here in the ACT, including providing vital infrastructure to facilitate the broadcast to the world of the moment Neil Armstrong walked on the moon back in 1969.
“I commend the work of our researchers continuing in this field and look forward to seeing the benefits of their work as Australia continues to invest in space.”
Dr Waddington said the grant would help to speed up the University’s research, which aimed to have equipment ready to present to the Johnson Space Centre in Houston by the end of 2021.