A quick note today on emergent technology. Right now, aerospace and defense mega-contractor Lockheed Martin is working with the military to develop the HULC exoskeleton. (That’s “Human Universal Load Carrier.”)
The exoskeleton, which is moving into human beta-testing now, improves the endurance and load-carrying capacity of a given person nearly an order of magnitude.
My immediate thought turns to the non-military, obviously, and to considering what an asset technology like this would be to a future astronaut. Imagine navigating rough planetary terrain loaded up with scientific equipment. That crater slope too steep? Never fear – HULC is here!
Seriously – one of the most practical aspects of powered exoskeleton technology may be in future planetary astronaut logistics, where a small number of people will be in the position to perform any number of jobs. In addition to extending or quickening scientific sorties, imagine the logistics of unloading a drop-shipment of crates at a future moonbase. With technology like this, it would be possible for an astronaut to act as both scientific investigator and powered loader, minimizing the amount of equipment to haul up to the moon while maximizing the number of things an astronaut could do on a single EVA. Something to consider.
See Lockheed Martin’s promotional video of the HULC in action here.