Girl of the 21st Century

Where You and the Future Collide

the space runway

I know you all have just been aching for another post to bring you up to speed — and funnily enough, the story I’m about to bring you is one that originally hit the internet a little over a year ago.  Still, it’s the perfect mix of sleek style and space age savvy, and so here it is on G21C!

Surely, even if not all of us are self-described space cadets, we’ve all seen pictures of the spacesuit that NASA is currently using for EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activities) aboard the Space Shuttle and when repairing the International Space Station.  It’s a bulky white thing that sort of makes you look like a marshmallow with legs, right?  The argument is that its weight and cumbersome size wouldn’t be a big deal in space, where there’s no gravity and the weight of the suit means nothing.  But what if we decided to send missions to the moon or to Mars?  What happens then, when we’re trying to coordinate research or construction on planetary surfaces that have enough atmosphere to make the old suit a nuisance?  It’s gone through many different incarnations over the years and throughout various missions, but the current version looks something like this:

Old Spacesuit

The old spacesuit -- so last milennium.

Well, the Space Shuttle is on its way out, and something’s telling me that this old spacesuit design is probably out the door, too.  Why?  Because it inhibits motion, and it must be pressurized in order for an astronaut to operate safely outside the comfy-cozy walls of the vehicle.  We’ve had it for so long that it’s hard to imagine having anything else…but then, MIT professor Dava Newman came up with a brilliant new design that was more efficient and easier to move.  Utilizing some innovative “second-skin” technology and a “mechanical pressure and counter-pressure” system that would eliminate the need for pressurized suits, she brought us what will hopefully be the next generation of EVA suits.  Not only is it more practical for space-farers — it looks infinitely cooler than its predecessor.  Some quick shots of the fabulosity that is MIT’s BioSuit:

BioSuit lounges ever so serenely.

BioSuit lounges ever so serenely.

BioSuit poses for the camera.

BioSuit poses for the camera.

BioSuit compared to its ancestor EVA suit.

BioSuit compared to its ancestor EVA suit.

This new spacesuit obviously shows a lot of potential.  There are a lot of little technical details about it on the web.  If you want more than just the pretty photographs (there’s definitely more out there than just the ones posted here), you can check out Space.com’s article or Prof. Dava Newman’s MIT site which has even more images and videos in its gallery of what the BioSuit will look like when it’s actually put to use.  One of the pictures shows an astronaut gearing up with a window behind him that looks out over a Martian landscape.  Not hard to tell what Dava’s hoping for, is it?

Hopefully one day, one of us spacesters will be up on Luna or Mars rocking that slimmer, trimmer, awesomer suit.  Until then, and until we start seeing some real action out of NASA’s Orion program, we’ll just have to drool over the pictures for now.  So, happy drooling, everyone!

See you again soon (tomorrow’s the Weekend Astronomy Alert!)

— G21C

P.S. — Sorry for the horrible formatting!  For whatever reason, WordPress feels grumpy this evening, and it’s not letting me line up the words like I want to.  Sorry if it’s confusing and if this happens again in the future — I’ll do my best to give all readers a fluid blog post whenever possible.  Thanks for your understanding, guys, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow!

November 15, 2008 Posted by | Astronautics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment