A crash-test dummy’s life is full of ups and downs. That is perhaps even truer for the dummies NASA has enlisted.The space agency’s Langley Research Center in Virginia has given shed some light on the experiences of these abused figures, including footage of the devastating crashes they endure in the name of science. Researchers “have to use crash-test dummies to evaluate the likelihood of injury when they’re either coming back to the ocean or they’re going to be coming back to land,” Martin Annett, a structural impact dynamics engineer, said in the NASA video.
The “they” he refers to are astronauts returning from a space mission, but crash-test dummies are used to investigate more than just spacecraft—they could be used to make airplanes safer too, for example. The dummies are rigged up to deliver data from the crash’s impact to a computer, and the researchers analyze that data to find out if safety equipment like helmets, suits and chairs are effective and what sort of impacts would cause human injury.
It can be a tricky process.“Everything that you really want to know about injury occurs in anywhere from one-tenth to four-tenths of a second,” Annett said. “So we have to be able to capture a lot of data within that timeframe.”The video includes wince-inducing footage of dummies smacking to the ground inside small planes, an astronaut crew capsule and a piece of a fuselage. NASA uses dummies of different shapes and sizes to understand how maneuvers impact both men and women, large and small. They also drop the dummies and their test vehicles at different angles and speeds to get various views of the impacts. According to officials, the inanimate victims are the same kind automobile companies use on their own crash tests, although those involve more forward and backward movements than vertical drops.