Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Leap in Space Suit design

Space suits are devilishly difficult things to design and engineer. They must protect the user from a multitude of hazards while still allowing movement. They are, in fact, miniature spaceships. Hence the bulky EVA suits of today that, in Earth gravity, weigh more than the astronauts and exhaust the wearer after a few hours.
A radical redesign from professor Dava Newman and her colleagues at MIT uses recent advances in fabrics to create a suit nicknamed the "Spiderman suit." She calls it the BioSuit. Instead of creating a pressurized container the shape of a human, her suit uses fabrics that mold tightly but flexibly to the shape and movement of the user. An operational suit that will be much more comfortable and lighter than current models is in sight (assuming funding) in about ten years.
COMMENT: As Keith Cowing at NASAWatch points out, this promising breakthrough was made using funding from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts - an organization which was just killed for budgetary reasons.

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