We are all familiar with NASA’s spacesuits—the huge, bulbous white things that make the wearers look like, well, huge, bulbous white things. Fortunately, we’re about to get some updates. NASA is developing the capabilities that are needed in order to send humans to Mars in the 2030s. This means new suits.
NASA is phasing out the old Z-1 models and bringing in a new brand, the Z-2. In March of 2014, NASA had the public vote on a number of different designs in order to select the top pick for the Z-2. The winning contender was called “Technology.” Here’s the design:
As you can see, the suit has electroluminescent wire and patches across the upper and lower torso. It’s rather impressive and looks amazingly futuristic, but the lights aren’t just for show. Ultimately, the suit uses luminex wire and light-emitting patches so that crew members can identify one another (remember, everyone currently just looks like a huge, bulbous white thing when they are in a spacesuit).
The design also utilizes 3D human laser scans and 3D-printed hardware. Ultimately, this means that each suit will be a near perfect fit for the wearer, relatively speaking (spacesuits are bulky by nature). The most significant alteration is that the previous model had a soft upper torso, while the new design has a hard composite upper torso, which provides the much-needed long-term durability that a planetary EVA suit will require. The boots are also much closer in nature to those that would be found on a flight ready model.
Recently, NASA unveiled its first images of the Z-2 spacesuit advanced prototype. Here’s what it actually looks like.
In the end, NASA is working on revamping all of their suits. In a press release, the agency details their plans: “NASA is developing the next generation of suit technologies that will enable deep space exploration by incorporating advancements such as regenerable carbon dioxide removal systems and water evaporation systems that more efficiently provide crew members with core necessities such as breathing air and temperature regulation.
Mobility and fit of a pressurized suit are extremely important in keeping astronauts productive, so NASA is focusing on space suit designs to help crews work more efficiently and safely during spacewalks. NASA is evaluating pressurizable space suits for missions to a variety of exploration destinations. The EMU (operational spacesuit on ISS) is pictured above on the left, the PXS (advanced prototype) is in the middle and the Z2 (advanced prototype) is on the right.”