This has to be one of the best jobs ever! “What do you do for a living?” “Oh, I just crash helicopters!” Unfortunately you are only privileged to this job if you work as a NASA engineer. Considering the heat and infamy they received for the botched Mars Climate Orbiter mission in 1999 (the satellite crashed into Mars because one team of scientists used metric units while the other team used English units), it does seem a little odd that they still let NASA perform this type of work. Fortunately for sake of NASA’s reputation, they are actually trying to crash the aircraft for this project. The goal was to engineer a simulation to test a new crash countermeasure for helicopters. The simulation required NASA to drop a donated Army MD-500 carrying four crash test dummies (one of which had simulated organs within its torso) from 35 feet in order to determine whether or not attaching a new Kevlar safety cushion to the bottom of the craft would effectively absorb the impact of the crash. The cushion was originally designed and tested for space flight safety, yet NASA believed that it might have the added benefit of protecting helicopter travelers here on Earth. To see the results, check out the video.
The helicopter remained relatively intact, including four relatively unharmed test dummies. Because the cushion did such a great job absorbing the impact, engineers say that they will be able to reuse the helicopter for a crash simulation next year.