Thursday, October 17, 2013

Space suit Runway Ready?

As NASA creates it’s most advanced space suit yet, one that prevents the need for an air lock all together (and does rather seemingly mundane things that are really very cool when you need a space suit!) , others around the world prepare in another way for the challenges in space.

Two really exciting things regarding spacesuits seem to require one article. Everyone recognizes the need for something new with regard to spacesuits. The dangers one can expect as a visitor to Mars are many.  NASA is preparing the Z-1 suit. A suit that meets all the needs taken care of in a space ship, but in a suit; Gone are the long periods of time transitioning from one to the other in an airlock. When in the suit, the astronaut takes the inside with him. This is in preparation for NOT just Mars, but farther out in space than the ISS. (The last suit was designed in 1992 for the ISS astronauts: requirements not the same as for the Moon, Mars, Titan…)

Offering a Portable Life Support System, it obviously supplies oxygen, removes CO2, protects from micrometeorites, is lightweight, compact, and flexible. One wonders when it will get TV – probably satellite.

Of course there is the development from University of Washington, Seattle, called the bubble, and that would be really cool to see in a space suit. It acts as a force shield to take care of interstellar radiation and micrometeorites. Perhaps in the next level as they plan on working with the Zi, doing lessons learned so that they can make the Z2.

On the other side of the world taking place in Morocco, was The World Space Walk 2013. An event designed to find the next best suit that could handle the physical demands of a Mars voyage. The sampling of rocks and other things requires dexterity and so the following tasks were attempted using three different suits: to complete an obstacle course where different activities such as: erecting a tripod and device measuring device, taking pictures, collecting a sample, labeling the sample and placing in the collection bag. Each was completed using The Aouda X suit from the Austrian Space Forum, The NDX-2 suit from the Human Spaceflight Laboratory in North Dakota, and an analogue suit that hailed from the Mars Dessert Research Station in Utah.

Certainly the Life Support System carries a little more importance, breathing is a tad neceesary, but once the astronaut is there and still alive, he or she needs to complete the mission which will require the talents being tested by the World Space Walk.

Just a quick thought. While we are talking about space suits, perhaps consider placing a propulsion system that takes its fuels from the atmosphere (and space depending where) and allows the astronaut not just to save his life by getting back to the ship, but maybe fly a little. 

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