Volunteers in the test chamberImagine yourself hip-to-hip, shoulder-to-shoulder, inside a room the size of a walk-in closet for eight hours with five people you just met. Does that make you sweat? Or maybe make your breathing a little more animated?

For three weeks, 23 volunteers dedicated time to do just that — sweat and breathe — inside a test chamber so NASA scientists at Johnson Space Center in Houston could measure the amount of moisture and carbon dioxide absorbed by a new system being developed for future space vehicles. The system is designed to control carbon dioxide and humidity inside a crew capsule to make air breathable and living space more comfortable.

The tests, which took place from April 14 to May 1, are some of the first to use human subjects in support of NASA’s Orion crew capsule, Altair lunar lander and lunar rovers.

Testing on the device began more than a year ago with machines used to create humidity and carbon dioxide in the test chamber. The tests proved the system worked well, but the machines could not generate the wide variety of metabolic loads — amounts of energy the body’s chemical reactions produce to maintain life — that humans create.

This series of tests put volunteers inside a test chamber scaled to be the size of the Orion crew capsule, about 570 cubic feet. The volunteers, who were selected and grouped to replicate a typical crew, were asked to sleep, eat and exercise during test sessions that lasted from a few hours to overnight.

“The air smelled a little artificial, like on a plane, and it was a little crowded,” said Aaron Hetherington, one of the volunteers and a director for the test. “But the air was fine; the temperature comfortable. My biggest observation is that it was unremarkable, which is good because that means the hardware was working.”

Video of the final test will be available on NASA Television’s Video File. For NASA TV downlink, schedule and streaming video information,visit:


For photos from the test and more information about NASA’s Constellation Program, visit:


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