New Delhi: Normally, spacesuits are made to suit a zero-gravity environment. But, the same won't do when one is trying to live in near-isolation in a dome to simulate a Mars mission, which is why simulated suits were considered.
Turns out, they wear out quickly and aren't exactly comfortable. They're small, compact and provide poor ventilation. Therefore, one of the nation's top design schools has come to the rescue.
Andrzej Stewart, chief engineering officer on the NASA-funded year-long Mars simulation mission in Hawaii – HI-SEAS, or Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation – stated that he couldn't zip up the simulated suits, so he wore a hazmat suit instead, which he said was easy to wear but not very realistic.
Learning this, staff members and students at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) have come up with a new, adjustable suit that closely resembles an actual space suit.
As per Phys.org, the entire crew saw a need for a better suit, said Sheyna Gifford, the mission's space doctor. A realistic suit is important, so crew members can see what experiments they can do and what tools they can use while wearing it, and how the habitat should be designed to accommodate it, she said.
"What we're aiming for is the best possible simulation, to inform NASA about what we learned on that simulation so they can succeed in the real thing," she said.
Stewart tried on the new suit at RISD, to test the fitting, movement, ventilation and radio communications. A NASA spacesuit engineer was also present in order to provide feedback to ensure that the design best resembles the architecture of suits NASA may use for future exploration missions.
Stewart said that the ventilation kept him cool and that the suit restricted his movement like a real suit would.
"It's great to finally be able to put on a full suit and be able to walk around, be able to move in it," Stewart said. "It makes me feel a lot more like an astronaut,” Phys.org reported.
The white suit is made of heavy-duty nylon fabric; carbon fiber that forms a hard shell for the upper torso area; and foam that replicates the pressurization of an actual suit. It comes in 16 pieces; components can be replaced or resized easily to fit the short and the tall. It weighs about 50 pounds.
RISD is one of the country's top art and design schools and has a large industrial design department. It has worked with NASA before, including on a project to design space gloves.
Check out pics of Andrzej Stewart trying out the spacesuit below!