Student-designed furniture is out of this world

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The Lunar Lounger team with the flatpack chair and table (Photo: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

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A team of five mechanical engineering seniors has been tasked by NASA to design furniture suitable for use in future habitats on Mars, the Moon, or in space itself. The Lunar Lounger project aims to address the lack of available space and the low-gravity in such conditions, while ensuring the comfort of astronauts.

The students from Rice University, in Houston, Texas, have designed a prototype flatpack chair and table. The table has integrated gas springs which enable height adjustment, and it is also modular, with connection ports that allow it to be joined together with other tables.

The chair sports a couple of foam pads for comfort and can be folded completely flat. A simple pin-and-hole mechanism enables it to be used either as a traditional chair or a kneeling chair. It also features restraints which make zero-gravity and low-gravity use easier. Both the chair and table can be floor-mounted to increase stability.

The design of the chair and table was inspired by asking the opinions of astronauts as to what would be useful in space.

"Part of our mission requirement was to focus on the daily activities of the astronauts and not their sleep habits or anything like that," says student Rey Amendola. "When we thought about what astronauts do every day and what kind of furniture they need, we narrowed down the scope of the project to chairs for sitting and tables for working, relaxing or for mealtimes."

The Lunar Lounger team is currently working to finalize its design with a view to producing a more refined prototype, and perhaps even get its design into orbit one day. The video below shows more on the project.

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