On the Radar: NASA’s Infamous “Gimbal Rig”

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This image shows NASA’s Gimbal Rig in motion. NASA used this device to test Mercury astronauts’ ability to recover from disorientation that resulted from up to 30 RPM in simultaneous roll, pitch, and yaw.

The astronauts had to reset their mock instruments after–and sometimes during–the exercise to prove they could control the craft in tumble conditions greater than they would ever actually experience during flight. According to John Glenn, the Mercury astronauts hated the Gimbal Rig with a passion. Today, astronaut candidates have to go through a centrifuge–but nothing quite like this.

 

Sources: Image from NASA, NASA article on the Gimbal Rig

Watch a video of the Rig–you may not think it looks disorienting, but remember it’s moving across three planes of motion!

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