NASA test dummies go through a lot so humans don’t have to. They get used for brutal impact tests, and sometimes said tests weighted so as to replicate what a real human body might experience in any of the tested scenarios, like a NASA craft falling into the ocean or a plane making contact with the ground.
The dummies themselves are rather resilient. They’re not designed to break on impact, like a bone might; instead, they absorb data on what kind of stress was inflicted on which body part and when.
Structural impact dynamics engineer Martin Annett explains that “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 timeframe.”
“You can now put an entire suite of sensors just in the back of this head,” Annett added, saying that the data is useful for everything from measuring injury criteria to suit design and seeing whether passenger seats are mitigating enough of the force from a crash.
As the Verge notes, some examples of tests that have been run using these dummies include a joint NASA-Federal Aviation Administration test in March 2017 involving a section of fuselage loaded with discarded baggage going through a hard, 4.27m drop that determined no passengers would have been seriously injured. Other examples include Orion crew capsule test landings into the bodies of water, which included collecting data on how wearing a spacesuit affects any astronauts inside.
“The suit has some influence on how the body responds to the loads,” Langley project engineer Jim Corliss said in a release on the agency’s website. “Imagine you have a helmet on your head that has some weight to it. Lateral loads contribute to throwing your head side to side so there’s an advantage to understanding how the test dummies respond with and without the helmet.”
Maybe these dummies don’t have the best job, but at least they get to get strapped into interesting objects and, uh, do a lot of stunts? Check out the compilation below: