Space travel is the most exciting and fast moving area of science, discovery, and innovation in the last century. The first space walk was only just over 50 years ago and we are discovering new planets and stars all the time. However, whilst it may have the best view of any lunch room it is the most dangerous workplace… in the universe.
Space agencies are masters of risk assessment. Legions of skilled scientists spend years planning all aspects of a trip out of this world but in the end they rely on the same principles as we do on earth- assess the risks and have a plan to avoid them occurring. The main thing standing between astronauts and certain death is appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
There are more ways for an astronaut to die at work than even the Game of Thrones script writers can imagine, but their space suits safeguard their lives and limbs. Space suits are the ultimate PPE but Nasa have only 11 out of 18 suits left. There is concern that the new suits will not be ready in time for the current ones being retired. The suits are already inadequate. One astronaut almost drowned after the suit failed and there have been over 3,400 incidents with the suits.
This would not be acceptable on earth so why is it accepted in space? Vital PPE such as this must be designed to be fit for purpose, and be adequately maintained. Like most workers, astronauts just like to get on with it and accept these risks, but they shouldn’t have to.
Valar Morghulis… but they don’t need to die at work, even in space, if they have proper PPE.
Blog by Alan Calderwood