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Could an astronaut be rescued if he/she became untethered on a space walk? © iStock

Could an astronaut be rescued if he/she became untethered on a space walk?

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Floating through space sounds idyllic, but could quickly become a nightmare.

Asked by: Roger Beever, Huddersfield

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NASA has developed a sort of jetpack called SAFER (Simplified Aid For EVA Rescue), which fires compressed nitrogen from 24 thrusters to steer the astronaut back to safety if they become detached. Theoretically, astronauts could also vent some gas from their suits or even throw a tool in the opposite direction to push themselves forward. But the problem is that unless the thrust is exactly in line with the astronaut's centre of mass, they will start spinning uncontrollably and very quickly become disorientated. SAFER automatically detects rotation and uses its jets to keep the astronaut oriented the same way.


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Authors

luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

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