March 25, 2014
Three New Futuristic NASA Spacesuit Designs To Get Public Vote
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
NASA is asking the public to chime in on one of three future spacesuit design concepts that will be built this fall.
The space agency’s Z-2 Suit is the latest prototype in its next-generation spacesuit platform. NASA said that it expects to have a fully-built Z-2 suit by this coming November.
Voters have three different options to choose from, including “Biomimicry,” “Technology,” and “Trends in Society.” Each of the designs have a futuristic look, but gain inspiration from specific themes.
The Z-2 is the first surface-specific planetary mobility suit to be tested in full vacuum, and the first to use 3D human laser scans and 3D-printed hardware for sizing. NASA says that this suit is the most advanced use of impact resistant composite structures, and the first integration of the suit port concept with a hard upper torso suit structure.
“In addition to these firsts we, the space suit engineers, have found ourselves with another exciting opportunity: the chance to make a suit with a look unlike any suit ever built before,” NASA said in a statement.
The space agency said it wants to take the opportunity to provide this new suit with an equally memorable appearance. The Z-1 concept gained fame because it looked like a real-life version of Buzz Lightyear’s suit from Toy Story.
“With the Z-2, we're looking forward to employing cover layer design elements never used in a spacesuit before. The designs shown were produced in collaboration with ILC, the primary suit vendor and Philadelphia University,” NASA said.
The prototype designs were created to help protect the suit and to highlight certain mobility features to aid suit testing, according to the space agency. The Biomimicry concept is a design inspired by the harshness of space and the world’s oceans.
“Mirroring the bioluminescent qualities of aquatic creatures found at incredible depths, and the scaly skin of fish and reptiles found across the globe, this design reflects the qualities that protect some of Earth's toughest creatures,” NASA said.
The Biomimicry design includes segmented pleats at the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee, and electroluminescent wire across the upper torso.
NASA’s Technology spacesuit design draws inspiration from past spacesuit achievements while incorporating subtle elements of the future.
“By using Luminex wire and light-emitting patches, this design puts a new spin on spacewalking standards such as ways to identify crew members,” NASA said.
Lastly, the Trends in Society spacesuit design reflects what every day clothes may look like in the future. The suit also uses the electroluminescent wire, as well as a bright color scheme to mimic the appearance of sportswear and the emerging world of wearable technologies.
NASA said the most significant advances in the Z-2 compared to the Z-1 is that it has a hard composite upper torso, which provides long-term durability. The suit improves on its design by allowing future astronauts more mobility, as well as boots that are much closer to those that would be found in a flight ready model.
Images Below: Future designs for NASA spacesuits -- Trends in Society (left) and Biomimicry (right). Credit: NASA - Johnson Space Center