That Time GE Made a One-Man, Rocket-Propelled Reentry Vehicle/Body Bag

The upcoming film Gravity follows the desperate escape attempts of two astronauts from a dying space station, their peril aggravated by the sight of Earth's surface so close but entirely out of their reach. Of course, had they been equipped with GE's Manned Orbital Operations Safety Equipment, they could have simply hopped a rocket bag down to the planet and saved themselves a whole lot of trouble.


The MOOSE, or Manned Orbital Operations Safety Equipment (formerly the much more fun Man Out Of Space Easiest) system was an emergency bail-out system designed by GE in the 1960's for astronauts stranded in orbit. The 200-pound suitcase-sized device consisted of a six foot long PET film bag covered with by quarter-inch-thick ablative rear heat shield and was outfitted with a twin-nozzle rocket motor.

While wearing his spacesuit, the astronaut would exit his disabled vehicle, climb into the bag, and use the included canisters of polyurethane foam to fill the remaining space with it—like Securefoam. The rocket would then engage, slowing the blunt-nosed bag out of orbit and into a reentry trajectory. At 30,000 feet, a set of parachutes would automatically deploy and slow the astronaut's descent to 17 mph, after which it was merely a matter of tucking and rolling. The foam also pulled double duty as a shock absorber/flotation device should the vehicle touch down in water.


Though GE did perform some preliminary feasibility tests on the system, its role as an absolute last resort escape method never really took hold with either NASA or the US Air Force. By the end of the decade MOOSE was quietly put out to pasture. Which, you know, was probably for the best. [GE Reports - Wiki]

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