When we send the first humans to Mars we will need to get the most scientific data in the smallest amount of time while not exhausting our astronauts in the process. Dava J. Newman has been working on a “biosuit” that’s designed to do just that.
Dava J. Newman is a Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems, Director of Technology and Policy Program and MacVicar Faculty Fellow at MIT. She’s also played A-team basketball, skied in the Junior Olympics and is a nationally competing triathlete.
Throughout the history(pdf) of NASA space suits, astronauts had to deal with bulky, hard to move in, non-mobile suits that hindered their work flow as opposed to helped them achieve their tasks and jobs.
That is, until Dava and her crew designed a snug fitting space suit that would allow astronauts to move freely. As you can see from the image below, the suit is significantly smaller than NASA’s Mark III space suit. This will allow wearers of the suit to fit into tighter spaces and work with their hands more freely than ever before.
Dava’s suit would be a huge leap forward in terms of construction as well. They’ve enlisted the expertise of Dainese, an Italian manufacturer of motorcycle racing “leathers”—leather and carbon-fiber suits designed to protect racers traveling at up to 200 mph.
The suit would be a degree safer than current space suits.
While a puncture or scrape in a traditional space suit would cause a dramatic decrease in pressure and would be tramatic, even deadly. The “biosuit” could be patched with a high tech ace bandage. The wearer would wrap it around the punctured area to stop the leak almost instantly. Pressure loss would be minimal and the astronaut would be able to continue working and finish his or her task.
Dr. Paul Webb
The idea of an elastic suit is not new, Dr. Paul Webb had been working on the idea in the late 1960s and developed a prototype in the early 1970s.
“When first introduced, the elastic Space Suit was met with widespread disbelief. Its origin was a specific change in the well-known and much used military Partial Pressure Suit. I changed the material used from non-stretch cloth (tightened when necessary with gas-pressurized capastans) to elastic cloth that applied the needed physical pressure quite uniformly. This eliminated the Partial Pressure suit’s main disadvantage, which was fainting after worn pressurized for 10 to 20 minutes from loss of circulating blood volume. The elastic suit eliminated this problem completely. The elastic suit also was more comfortable and non-injurious to skin. It could be worn for mission completion as opposed to an emergency get-me-down garment. Its future use could be seen as an EVA suit for space flight.” –