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5/2/2014
09:54 AM
Elena Malykhina
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NASA's Next Spacesuit: Mars Fashion

NASA reveals its latest prototype of the "Z" series spacesuit, designed for humans to walk on Mars by the 2030s.
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NASA has revealed the design for its next prototype spacesuit to be used for Mars missions. The prototype, dubbed Z-2, offers better mobility and, unlike current spacewalking suits, is designed to handle the red planet's harsh environment.

NASA chose the Z-2's look based on votes from visitors to a website dedicated to the new spacesuit. The site gave voters three concept designs from which to choose, dubbed "technology," "biomimicry," and "trends in society." All three designs were created by suit vendor ILC and Philadelphia University. The biomimicry design depicts a suit that emulates the bioluminescent qualities of aquatic creatures. The trends suit reflects how everyday clothes might look in the future. However, it was the Tron-like technology design that won following 233,431 public votes.

The Z-2 is the latest prototype in NASA's next-generation spacesuit platform, called the Z-series. The Z-2 builds on the previous prototype of the Z-1 suit. It is the first "surface-specific planetary mobility suit" to be tested in a complete vacuum, and to use 3D human laser scans and 3D-printed hardware, according to NASA. Additionally, it has impact-resistant composite structures on the upper and lower torso. It's the most re-sizeable hard-upper-torso suit built so far.

Another big difference between the two prototypes is the materials they're made of. The Z-1 had a soft upper torso, while the Z-2 has a hard composite upper torso. NASA said the hard upper torso offers long-term durability that a planetary extra-vehicular activity (EVA) suit requires. The shoulder and hip designs also differ. The Z-2 has several improvements that take into account the movement of complex joints.

The materials used on the Z-2 are intended for a full-vacuum environment. NASA is currently planning a comprehensive test campaign for Z-2 to see how it performs in an environment that mimics the lack of atmosphere found in space. The suit will be tested at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, an indoor pool that NASA uses to train astronauts to spacewalk. NASA will conduct further testing at a rocky Martian-surface analog site at the Johnson Space Center to evaluate the suit's performance.

The final version of the suit is expected to be ready for testing by November. Lessons learned from the tests will then be used to design the Z-3.

NASA has set an ambitious goal to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, so developing a spacesuit for that mission is on the agency's list of priorities. However, the Z-series prototype is still in a non-flight phase, which means it won't be making a trip to space just yet. Click through our slideshow to learn more about the spacesuit's design and capabilities.

Image: NASA

Elena Malykhina began her career at The Wall Street Journal, and her writing has appeared in various news media outlets, including Scientific American, Newsday, and the Associated Press. For several years, she was the online editor at Brandweek and later Adweek, where she ... View Full Bio

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ThambiT496
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ThambiT496,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/3/2014 | 7:19:33 PM
The most homey looking spacesuit I ever saw !
This looks like a bunch of middle schooler astronaut suit designer wanna bes got together in their garage and used their mom's old sewing machine to put together a really homie looking suit for Halloween.

What a shame !...I thought NASA had better design sense than to show off a beer can suit with glow stick patches on it(and that too looks like some elementary school kid did it as homework assignment). I hope not a cent a tax payer money was spent on this embarrasment.

No respectable astronaut with any self esteem will ever be caught in this..not even for Halloween !

Please, oh please, for humanity's sake, go to design school and learn the basics of styling !..and there should be a limit to design by commitee....even for camels !

 

 
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2014 | 2:20:57 PM
Re: Mars suit
This biomimicry concept is awesome. i had never heard of it before reading this article. 

For so long, industrial processes where not really capable of creating similar structures that exist in the natural world. But technology has caught up, and I think we're going to see some really great designs in the future that encompass the environment and ecology that surrounds us. 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2014 | 9:31:47 AM
Trends of the past
"The "trends in society" design also uses electroluminescent wire. It has a bright color scheme to "mimic the appearance of sportswear and the emerging world of wearable technologies," per NASA's description."

Those wearable technologies are going to be old technologies from the past in the year 2030. The same with the appearance of today's sportswear fashion. :D What a bad idea! 

-Susan 
BettyN642
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BettyN642,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/3/2014 | 3:33:43 AM
Teletubbies meet Buzz Lightyear!
Teletubbies meet Buzz Lightyear! Major influences from both Teletubbies and Buzz Lightyear. As Buzz would say, "To low earth orbit and, and, and..." Oh forget it. This is NASA we are talking about. NASA has not been out of LEO in 40 years. Sigh. And these suits? Um. Yuck.
BillW334
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BillW334,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/3/2014 | 2:04:05 AM
Fugly
Shrek meets Buzz Lightyear.  Ugh.  I bet the cosmic rays will pass right through it.  Big waste of money. Forget Mars.  Disney certainly has.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
5/2/2014 | 5:49:35 PM
Re: Why the guns and ammo?
Hollywood will be happy. Futuristic space suits always seem to have a lot of clear material (and lights pointed inward), so the audience can see high-priced stars in simulated space settings.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
5/2/2014 | 2:16:15 PM
Re: Mars suit
Good thing the Martian soil is mostly red (which is why it looks red from here).

 
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
5/2/2014 | 2:04:30 PM
Re: Why the guns and ammo?
I didn't see any, but...

It might not be ETs that astronauts need to defend themselves against.  While we want space exploration to be a peaceful pursuit, there are no guarantees; thus astronauts just might have to defend themselves against other humans.

 
nuchil606
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nuchil606,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/2/2014 | 12:32:09 PM
Why the guns and ammo?
Are we expecting ETs on Mars that we need to kill/protect ourselves from?
KevinN066
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KevinN066,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/2/2014 | 10:38:33 AM
Mars suit
Surely the suit should be white so it can be seen against the background from a distance in case of emergency for easy location. Grey will merge into most backgrounds and that little bit of blue.....well.
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