NASA Unveils Redesign of their Z-2 Space Suit
Would you wear this?
Last year, NASA presented their ideas for their Z-2 Space Suit and asked people to vote for their favorite. Over 233,431 votes later, this design that was the clear favorite (with 63% of the total vote) , was the 'Technology'option.
NASA's Z-2 suit is the newest prototype in its next-generation of spacesuits being designed with Mars surface operations in mind.
There are many key advances in the Z-2 suit over previous space suit designs -- -particularly the Z-1. The most significant is that the Z-1 had a soft upper torso and the Z-2 has a hard composite upper torso. This composite hard upper torso provides the much-needed long-term durability that a planetary Extravehicular Activity (EVA) suit will need.
The shoulder and hip joints are different as well, with significant adjustment to optimize mobility. The boots, too, went through significant redesign and are now much closer in nature to those that would be found on a suit ready for space.
In an effort to make the space suit more "hip" and less like a sci-fi comic book idea from the 1950's, NASA then took the design back to the public to, basically, crowd-source the outer shell design:
The Z-2 is a hybrid space suit, combining hard shell features for protection with "soft" suit materials. But this space suit is still based on the traditional idea of gas-inflated suits that can protect the human body in low-pressure and vacuum environments.
But is a gas-inflated space suit the best way to get around on Mars?
Dr. Dava Newman, Deputy Administrator of NASA and Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systesm at MIT, has a different idea.
Dr. Newman's has been working on and promoting the development of the Bio-Suit, a compression-style suit that provides pressure on the body through the suit's textile weave and thereby simulate the (minimal) 1/3 atmospheric pressure needed to survive. It's a critical technology required for the exploration and settlement of Mars.
The space suit is designed to help astronauts move around more easily than gas-filled suits would ever allow.
NASA has been developing these so-called “soft” suits for a long time, taking advantage of new materials and binding technologies.
And, although getting to Mars may still be a few years off, it's never too soon to think about what the best way to get around the planet will be.
Just take a look at this presentation from Dava Newman and see what you think.
What do you think? Is a Bio-suit a better choice than the Z-2 for getting around on Mars. Share your thoughts in the comments below.