BioSuit: The Future of Space Gear
Source: bostonmagazine.comNew materials and designs could allow outer-space travelers to move more freely.
One day, moving around in outer space—and walking on Mars—could become a whole lot more comfortable for astronauts, thanks to the innovative techniques being developed by an aeronautics professor at MIT.
“The BioSuit—the one that gets a lot of media coverage—is a concept no one has seen before, and we have been working on it for a long time,” said Dava Newman, professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems at MIT. “We are doing great research. If we were fully funded, we could have it working in two years, no problem.”
Newman has been working on various types of wearable outer-space gear with MIT students and designers from around the world for more than a decade, focusing specifically on three forms of aeronautics spacesuits: The BioSuit, an exercise suit, and a layer of material that can be worn inside of the typical bulky space gear that NASA astronauts have grown accustomed to during space missions.
Newman made waves at a recent TED talk in San Francisco last week, TED Women, where she showed off examples of the work she has been doing for the last 12 years.
According to Newman, the BioSuit, which captured the audience’s attention, is an example of “new wearable technologies” being developed at MIT’s Extra-Vehicular Activity Lab (EVA). The suit system could one day provide life support for astronauts in an atmosphere like the one on Mars by relying on the “mechanical counter-pressure” built into the suit, where pressure is applied to the entire body through a tight-fitting material. The suit is also equipped with a helmet to cover an explorer’s head.
“You have to apply a third of an atmosphere to keep someone alive in the vacuum of space. With polymers or stretchy elastic, you can get about 20 percent there, but we have to get to 30 percent to make it work. So now, using our active material, we have nailed the extra 10 percent so we can fully pressurize the suit,” said Newman. “When we go to another planet, we could definitely have a useable flight system going.”
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