Sydney Do (right panel, at right) works on his prototype astronaut air bag system
Should the astronauts living on the International Space Station ever need to evacuate, the plan is that they will be able to board the station’s resident escape spacecraft, which will then take them back to Earth. That escape craft, called Orion, is currently under construction. Like the Apollo spacecraft that it resembles, Orion is intended to land at sea. If it should happen to come down on the land, however... well, those astronauts could be in for a rough landing. With that in mind, a graduate student in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics is developing an air bag system to cushion Orion’s occupants in the event of a dry landing. The system, interestingly enough, was inspired by the structure of seeds.