Designing for Space: NASA's Industrial Designers

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Design magazine Core77 sent the intrepid Glen Jackson Taylor inside NASA, to learn how the organization handles industrial design -- the process of designing the usable and beautiful devices. But when Taylor arrived, he found a surprise: "There isn't really a place for industrial designers at NASA," he wrote. "Here the engineers are considered the designers, and the team has only been able to exist under the guise of human factors, a quantifiable soft science that is acknowledged as necessary." So how does NASA design such iconic rovers, landers, the Space Shuttle, rockets, and so on? They aren't just functional -- there's tons of design there as well. Taylor explains:

We jump in Travis's car and head over to Hangar X, which sounds dead cool. Hangar X is the former location of the X-38 Crew Return Vehicle project, an escape pod for the crew working on the International Space Station (ISS) to return to Earth in case of an emergency. Literally hundreds of people worked on the X-38, millions of dollars were invested developing prototypes that were realized to the point of a drop-test vehicle, before being canceled in 2002 due to budget cuts. It now sits on a trailer under tarps in the Hangar X car park as a monument to the cycles of power and priority, how Congress is voting, and the political relations with our allies and enemies. ...

Read the rest for an awesome look inside NASA, including tons of great photos, video, and my favorite part: the design of a new pressurized rover that may eventually land on the moon.

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November 13, 2008 - 9:33am
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