Glide Underground

The new spacesuit

Articles / Personal Stuff/Random News
Date: Jul 17, 2007 - 10:00 AM
MIT's come up with something new - a spacesuit that would give astronauts full range of motion - and also show off if they were a bit out of shape.

Newman's prototype suit is a revolutionary departure from the traditional model. Instead of using gas pressurization, which exerts a force on the astronaut's body to protect it from the vacuum of space, the suit relies on mechanical counter-pressure, which involves wrapping tight layers of material around the body. The trick is to make a suit that is skintight but stretches with the body, allowing freedom of movement.

Over the past 40 years, spacesuits have gotten progressively heavier, and they now weigh in at about 300 pounds. That bulk -- much of which is due to multiple layers and the life support system coupled with the gas-pressurization -- severely constrains astronauts' movements. About 70 to 80 percent of the energy they exert while wearing the suit goes towards simply working against the suit to bend it.

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