Image Cache: Building a safe spacecraft is in some ways like building a safe car: If you don't want your astronauts to die, you need to test the vehicle thoroughly. And just like cars, that means using crash test dummies. Browse through the cool photos, animations and diagrams in Gizmodo's Image Cache here.
In these photos you can see NASA engineers at Langley Research Center installing suited-up test dummies — the same type that are used in the car industry for impact tests — into the crew seats of an Orion test craft. The team then will carry out a series of impact tests to evaluate the Orion spacecraft and crew safety upon returning from deep-space missions and touching down on Earth's surface. NASA explains:
The capsule, coupled with the heat shield from the spacecraft's first flight, will be used for water-impact testing to simulate what astronauts would experience when landing in the Pacific Ocean during a real mission. Water-impact testing will help NASA evaluate how the spacecraft may behave when landing under its parachutes in different wind conditions and wave heights. [...] Two test dummies — one representing a 48kg woman and the other a 100kg man to assess the impact on different-sized people — have been installed in the crew seats of the Orion mockup.
Photos by David C. Bowman/NASA