NASA is ready to unveil the design of their next-generation spacesuit prototype. Wednesday, the space agency will reveal the winner of a contest on their website put the decision to a public vote.
The futuristic Z-2 suit will make future missions possible to asteroids or the surface of other planets. Some of the improvements under development include: a rear-entry “hatch” that could also dock with a rover, the use of “soft” materials to cut weight and increase mobility, complex joints and a redesigned life support system. While the functional portion of the suit is left up to the expertise of Spacesuit engineers, the look of the covering is a popularity contest.
NASA gave the public three options for Z-2’s cover layer: “Biomimicry,” “Technology,” and “Trends in Society.” With nearly a quarter-million votes cast, NASA’s website shows the “technology” design garnered 63 percent of the vote.
“Technology” is a throwback to past spacesuit achievements, while incorporating subtle elements of the future. The design also features Luminex wire and light-emitting patches to identify astronauts.
Don’t expect to see these flashy designs in space, however. The futuristic design elements and colors appearing on the suit’s exterior will only be used during ground tests, according to NASA spokesman Dan Huot. “When you actually send a suit into space, it’s got to be completely white. That’s simply because that’s the best way we have to bounce that radiation back off and prevent the suit from overheating.”
A fully-functional model of the Z-2 will be built by November. “This is basically advancing a lot of the technology that we’re going to need. We’re testing out new materials and new ways to get in and out of the suit. We’re going to be putting it in a vacuum chamber and a lot of exciting stuff,” Huot said.
This month, NASA administrators reaffirmed the Fiscal Year 2015 budget keeps the agency on track for a manned mission to an asteroid by 2025 and to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.
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