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I was also intrigued by the same problem posed on Which computer monitors will work on Mars? I would like to take it further to work out which specs (and technologies) should a tablet computer have in order to work either on Mars or outer space? What would be a workable concept?

I will define, for our purposes a tablet as a handheld computer device with a sensitive screen that would allow interactions with a human being without a hardware keyboard. Aside of resisting to harsh conditions (low pressure, cold, radiations, etc.) it would have to be usable by a human being who will presumably be wearing a space suit with handgloves. Since a naked finger is not available, what kind of medium could be used? (stylus, adapting the glove, etc.)

I guess we should accept some "degradation" compared to a regular tablet, i.e. that it could be tethered for energy, and that instead of weighing a pound, it could be heavier. But at least it should be portable (i.e. not require exagerate effort, complications or machinery to move around). It would have to be usable outside of a habitat on Mars, or outside of a spacecraft, during a space walk. I assume, also, that these two conditions would define two different "grades" of "space fitness", like those used for "waterproof"?

Finally, if the technology is not available yet, it would be OK to count on it if it could be developed (if it is reasonable within 10 years and does not involve scientific speculations).

(If you feel that the framing of the question should be slightly revised, please say so.)

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They'd have to use resistive touch, or have a glove that conducts the users capacitance (too many complications in an already high-risk environment).

Outside of a spacecraft would require a cooling system to keep the tablet in the operating temperature range.

Spacewalks usually last 5-8 hours. So battery life would be an issue. But, being weightless would only mean bulkier, not heavier batteries.

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  • $\begingroup$ There are other ways to control the mouse/cursor besides the touch pad. I wonder if that's why there are mostly Lenovos up there? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 3 '16 at 4:03
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A computer that must be usable when the user is inside a space suit? Build the computer into the suit. That way the computer can take advantage of the existing life support system (power, cooling, communications), you eliminate a loose item by building it in (important: anything loose can and will float away/get its tether tangled up), and you can use controls e.g. inside the gloves instead of bulky controls built to be used while wearing gloves.

the biggest remaining issue is radiation. The computer must be radiation-hardened or radiation-tolerant.

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  • $\begingroup$ Building a computer into a space suit would require a very reliable computer. Any possible failure of the computer should be no risk for the life of the astronaut wearing the suit. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Dec 6 '16 at 19:07

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