Can We Create the Perfect Spacesuit?

Can We Create the Perfect Spacesuit?

Amy Lyons

04.09.2015 – Even with all of the space missions we’ve gone on, there has yet to be a “perfect” spacesuit that will function for any mission. For example, the US ACES suits and the Russian Sokol suits are only designed for launch and reentry, and can’t be used for spacewalks. The Apollo A7L spacesuits were only designed for spacewalks, with hard soled boots to walk on the Moon, while the current NASA EMU and Russian Orlan suits are designed for space use and have soft soled shoes, so as not to damage the exterior of the space station.

So, what exactly would a perfect spacesuit entail? A perfect suit needs to be lightweight, but also immune to tears and rips, impacts and radiation, but also needs to be flexible, fit a multitude of sizes, and be comfortable enough to be worn for an extended period of time.

Designing a spacesuit though, is challenging, because it needs to be protective, but also highly mobile. So far, the more mobile a suit is, the less protective it is, and vice versa. Nevertheless, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is designing a new, “shrink-wrap” spacesuit. This suit is light, form-fitting, and flexible. MIT is also implementing a nickel-titanium shape-memory alloy for their spacesuit, which works to expel the “gas bubble” that’s produced between the spacesuit and the wearer’s body.

NASA is also working on designing a better spacesuit. In 2014, they released a new design called the Z-2. This new design appears to be bulky, but its joints aren’t as restrictive. This suit also has a rear-entry port, which allows the suit to dock onto the side of a mobile transporter or habitat. NASA is currently testing this Z-2 prototype to create a better suit, the Z-3.

Although we haven’t created a perfect spacesuit, we do know what we need to possess a perfect spacesuit. Self-healing would be beneficial, so that foam would fill in a tear in the suit. Better gloves, ones that are more flexible and protective, would also be valuable. A better visionary system, such as a thinner, more durable helmet, equipped with internal heads-up displays would be beneficial. Currently, spacesuits have an “underwear” system of plastic tubing that circulates water, drawing away body heat to cool down the user, but Purdue University has engineers working on polymers that absorb heat to discharge electricity. Imposition of artificial gravity would also be added to spacesuits by gyroscopes that provide resistance similar to that of the force of gravity on Earth, and a longer battery life would result in further spacewalks.

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