Space & Astronomy
New 'second skin' spacesuit developed
By T.K. Randall
September 21, 2014 · 12 comments
A concept design image of the new spacesuit. Image Credit: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT
A skintight lightweight spacesuit designed at MIT could one day be used by astronauts going to Mars.
Today's spacesuits are large, bulky pieces of equipment that appear in stark contrast to those worn by astronauts in science fiction movies or in artwork depicting the future of space travel.
This might soon be set to change however thanks to a brand new spacesuit design that has been developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Unlike conventional spacesuits, this new design is extraordinarly slimline to the point where it has been described as a "second skin" for astronauts.
"With conventional spacesuits, you're essentially in a balloon of gas that's providing you with the necessary one-third of an atmosphere to keep you alive in the vacuum of space," said Prof Dava Newman. "We want to achieve that same pressurization, but through mechanical counterpressure - applying the pressure directly to the skin, thus avoiding the gas pressure altogether."
The new spacesuit is comprised of a combination of passive elastics and other active materials that make it skintight, lightweight and which enable a much greater freedom of movement.
Consisting of springlike coils made from a shape-memory alloy that constricts in response to heat, the suit can be expanded to allow an astronaut to put it on and then constricted to make it airtight.
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