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Middle aged heterosexual, WASP male. Semi retired, semi-sane and semi-serious. And endangered species and I'm not going quietly!!!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Suits Ahoy!

From the "Perspective" science desk we have this latest bit.

Future explorers on the Moon and Mars could be outfitted in lightweight, high-tech spacesuits that offer far more flexibility than the bulky suits that have been used for spacewalks in the 1960s.

"When we get back to the Moon and on Mars, we're not going there to stay in a habitat," said Dava Newman, professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems here at MIT. "EVA becomes ... a primary function," she said.
The Bio-Suit System, Newman said, would provide life support through mechanical counter pressure where pressure is applied to the entire body through a tight-fitting suit with a pressurized helmet for the head. Ongoing research is targeted at understanding, simulating, and predicting capabilities of suited astronauts in a variety of scenarios -- be they performing simple motions or more complex movement, such as overhead or cross-body reach, stepping up, or trudging across an exotic landscape.

Newman said that the spacesuits of today are very limited in terms of mobility. In addition, the current weight or mass of EVA suits is another limiting factor.

Lightweight and easy to don and doff, the bio-suit layer would be custom fitted to each astronaut -- made possible by a laser scanning/electrospinlacing process. That method stems from work at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass. where researchers there are tapping into science and technology for 21st century combat uniforms, as well as police officer garb able to thwart chemical or biological agents.

In addition, the MIT Bio-Suit System team is working with Mide Technology Corp. of Medford, Mass. to adopt such items as micro-actuators and smart (active) materials in their designs.

The ultimate goal of this concept is a symbiotic interaction of astronaut and spacesuit like that between humans and terrestrial plants in which the astronaut's waste carbon dioxide and water vapor are converted back into respirable oxygen in the suit walls using environmental energy sources.

Technologies under study, Hodgson noted, include shape change polymers and electro-emissive materials to modify heat transfer characteristics of the spacesuit skin so it is similar to that found in natural biological systems.

Your humble scribe;
Prof. Allan W Janssen

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