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Pumps And Pipes: Industry Leaders Present Innovative Collaborations At Conference

The annual event draws hundreds of experts from the energy, oil and gas and aerospace industries to Houston.



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NASA scientists are working with medical professionals to see how the Robonaut could assist with medical procedures in space.

After a leak caused an astronaut’s helmet to fill with water during a spacewalk, NASA needed a better way to check the condition of its spacesuits.

Ellen Ochoa is with the Johnson Space Center. She says by connecting with medical professionals through the Pumps and Pipes conference, NASA got the idea to use an MRI machine to find the leak in the spacesuit.

“We had an in-space emergency, really,” she says. “We’re trying to understand more about the condition of our spacesuits in some way where you’re doing nondestructive evaluation, and so we realized an MRI machine might be a good way of doing that.”  

Ochoa says the groups are also collaborating on technology like the Robonaut, a human-like machine that works alongside astronauts.

“We’ve actually brought that robot down here to the Medical Center and are starting to understand if we have the right dexterity for them to actually help if you had to do some kind of surgery or some kind of medical procedure in space,” Ochoa says.

Representatives from the oil and gas industry also presented their collaborative projects. Bill Kline is with ExxonMobil. He says the company works with medical professionals when its pipelines get infected with biological organisms that cause corrosion.

“How we clean out those pipes, how we neutralize the organism, [has a] direct interest with the medical community,” Kline says.  

Kline says ExxonMobil is also working with NASA to improve robotics for offshore drilling.

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