Odetics Designing Helmet That May Be Used on Future U.S. Space Station

Researchers at Anaheim-based Odetics Inc. are designing a futuristic 3-D space helmet that may someday be worn by astronauts aboard a U.S. space station.

The "tele-presence helmet" would be used by astronauts to repair equipment outside the space vehicle, to help launch satellites or perform other tasks in space.

The helmet is designed to allow an astronaut to view a scene at a distant location as if he or she were actually there. The scene would be displayed inside the helmet on a high-resolution, 3-D color display screen.

"The helmet would save the astronaut from having to go outside the ship," said project head Jerry Aguren. Odetics, a high-technology firm, is doing the work under a research contract from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

With such a helmet, for example, an astronaut could remotely maneuver a robotic device at the site to assemble space station components or repair a satellite. Because the image would be displayed in 3-D, the astronaut-operator would be better able to judge the distance or depth between the various pieces of equipment.

Don't expect to see an astronaut wearing the futuristic helmet any day soon. Aguren said it will probably be at least five years before the National Aeronautics and Space Administration equips astronauts with the new headgear.

Construction of the manned space station is not scheduled to begin until the mid-1990s--if it begins at all. As proposed, the station would be assembled in space with a series of launches. But the station's future remains in some doubt because of proposed cuts in federal spending for the project.

Even if the space station project is scrubbed, Odetics believes the special helmet would have other military and commercial uses.

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