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NASA Testing Lighter Space Suits For Asteroid Work

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the astronaut's-new-clothes dept.

NASA 54

Zothecula writes "Sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step forward. NASA is carrying out initial tests on a new, lighter spacesuit for use by the crew of the Orion spacecraft that is currently under development. The tests are being carried out in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory near the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on a modified version of the pumpkin orange suit normally worn by Space Shuttle crews during liftoff and re-entry and is a return to a space suit design of the 1960s."

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Lighter suits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45704863)

lighter budgets

Re:Lighter suits (0)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#45704903)

Just think how much less budget you have to launch into space. Which requires fewer boosters, which means your budget can be cut!

Re:Lighter suits (3, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year ago | (#45704971)

The problem is the money wasted every time they move the goalposts to "save money." This happens constantly at NASA. I wonder how much cheaper it would be to actually finish some projects as planed, instead of redesigning to cut costs halfway through each time?

Re:Lighter suits (4, Insightful)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#45705167)

The problem is the money wasted every time they move the goalposts to "save money." This happens constantly at NASA. I wonder how much cheaper it would be to actually finish some projects as planed, instead of redesigning to cut costs halfway through each time?

The problem is the projects take far longer than politicians are in power for - you're looking at easily a decade from conception, design, test and launch. The Mars rovers are an anomaly as they're generally done "on the cheap" just to see what was possible, but it still took a long time to actually plan out and do it all.

And with NASA's budget and goals being at the whim and fart of politicians, well, it can't be helped.

If you ever wonder why NASA spends so much on public relations, that's probably the only thing keeping base funding alive - just having public awareness they exist and that space is interesting means they get some funding.

Re:Lighter suits (1)

azadrozny (576352) | about a year ago | (#45705627)

You have a really good point. These programs are complex. It is difficult to determine how a change to one part will affect the others. The article discussed the compromises that are needed because of the constraints of the Orion program. I truly hope they can develop a multipurpose product, rather than a crippled one that makes simple tasks more tedious. There is a reason we have both a screwdriver and a hammer in our toolbox.

Re:Lighter suits (1)

IwantToKeepAnon (411424) | about a year ago | (#45708755)

I wonder how much cheaper it would be to actually finish some projects as planed

Maybe they can get help from google? I can see it now, NASA labs.

Congress! (1)

Inflammatory Fallacy (3464447) | about a year ago | (#45711877)

NASA shares its woes with every new project, technology, or system coming out of a government organization: It requires budget approval from someone else, usually the U.S. Congress in their everlasting budget talks, and those budgets can be changed during the course of research. Until one of those conditions is changed, the progress coming from NASA, DARPA, and every other research organization in the country will be crippled beyond recognition by bureaucrats aiming to slash budgets. The Republicans do it because it looks good when they decrease government spending, and the Democrats do it because it looks good when they decrease defense spending. It's all too fitting that one of the few things both sides of the aisle can agree on is one that neither party understands.

Re:Lighter suits (1)

InfiniteLoopCounter (1355173) | about a year ago | (#45712355)

Cheapest might be to learn from the Soviet example where several competing departments tried to come up with an idea or implementation and more optimum solution sort of came out naturally as a result. Given the number of firsts the Soviets had of the USA it might be much faster as well. Funny how the USA has had an almost authoritarian system in place for managing projects in space since the start of NASA and they don't embrace a more free-market approach.

IOW: NASA brass making astronauts dress sluttier (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year ago | (#45704899)

The harsh environment of deep space is no longer an excuse. There's an oblig. Simpsons reference I'm too lazy to look up.

Re:IOW: NASA brass making astronauts dress sluttie (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#45707133)

Good. I hate 'The Simpsons', and any "obligatory" reference to any of its episodes (or even worse, Seinfeld) is an utter waste of electrons. /rant

Re:IOW: NASA brass making astronauts dress sluttie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45707807)

Citations are obligatory references on Slashdot. Citing your favorite comic strip for the umpteenth time isn't helpful. That's just the stuff people think of first, without the critical thought to post a real argument with proper citations. Think a bit and do the community a favor. You'll get more karma for it.

as long as it's sexy it's okay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45704907)

Because nasa needs sexy to sell itself to congress!

Re:as long as it's sexy it's okay (2)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about a year ago | (#45705035)

Nah think bigger picture. NASA needs to start filming and selling zero-g porn. They'll have a virtual monopoly on the stuff and the adult industry is worth $10+ billion a year. That's twice what NASA spent on space operations in 2011.

And in case you think it's a joke, and not a commentary on how sad it is people would rather invest in seeing money shots than real science, I haz links :

http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/659660main_NASA_FY13_Budget_Estimates-508-rev.pdf [nasa.gov]
http://www.forbes.com/2001/05/25/0524porn.html [forbes.com]

(although it is cheering to know that the entire NASA budget is bigger than the porn industry, although I must admit I was a little surprised by the 3 billion spent on "cross agency support" -- what's that about?)

Re:as long as it's sexy it's okay (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#45705087)

It's probably where they hide the money for the *really* secret projects.

Re:as long as it's sexy it's okay (3, Interesting)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#45705177)

First zero g porn was shot on a private vomit comet. Don't recall the name.

It had to suck, being made up of 22 second zero g shots edited together.

Re:as long as it's sexy it's okay (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about a year ago | (#45713261)

links or it didn't happen ! ;P

Re:as long as it's sexy it's okay (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#45707191)

A lot of that "cross agency support" is NASA picking up the tab for military projects. Yeah, the bottomless money pit of the Pentagon also sucks money out of National Institute of Health, National Science Institute, NOAA, National Weather Service, even the National Park Service.

Re:as long as it's sexy it's okay (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#45707481)

Nah think bigger picture. NASA needs to start filming and selling zero-g porn. They'll have a virtual monopoly on the stuff and the adult industry is worth $10+ billion a year. That's twice what NASA spent on space operations in 2011.

And in case you think it's a joke, and not a commentary on how sad it is people would rather invest in seeing money shots than real science, I haz links :

http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/659660main_NASA_FY13_Budget_Estimates-508-rev.pdf [nasa.gov]
http://www.forbes.com/2001/05/25/0524porn.html [forbes.com]

(although it is cheering to know that the entire NASA budget is bigger than the porn industry, although I must admit I was a little surprised by the 3 billion spent on "cross agency support" -- what's that about?)

Nah. Russian zero-g porn!

Re:as long as it's sexy it's okay (1)

dj245 (732906) | about a year ago | (#45707809)

I was a little surprised by the 3 billion spent on "cross agency support" -- what's that about?)

Probably the layers upon layers of dysfunctional management we are always hearing about. A bigger question is how you spend $600+ on a dead program- The last shuttle flight was in July 2011 but funding continued to 2013. I can understand there will be some costs but you don't need gold-plated tarps to cover a machine that will never fly again.

Re:as long as it's sexy it's okay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45705061)

I would like to see Barbarella see-through boobs, and why not go for the quick-open crotch.

Return to a space suit design of the 1960s (0)

NReitzel (77941) | about a year ago | (#45705241)

Yep, NASA is all for a return to the 1960's. The Glory Days.

Spent money like water, came up with the shortest path to "beating them Ruskies"

They never learned to build infrastructure. They never wanted to launch a mission that had any risk. They apparently never read the proverb, "Those who refuse to face failure, need never worry about success."

C'mon, guys. Let's go back to a capsule, water landings, Big Disposable Boosters.

Maybe you should consider trying to reengineer an actual practical shuttle, and not let the military in to make it bigger-by-the-month, until it was just barely able to do it's thing. How about taking it in small steps, learn something at every step, and go on from there? Do you really have to make a Giant Pert Chart that lists the entire future of the NASA space mission, and then try to keep everything on schedule? Perhaps you should consider having pilots and scientists, instead of bureaucrats and accountants.

Re:Return to a space suit design of the 1960s (1)

telchine (719345) | about a year ago | (#45705387)

Do you really have to make a Giant Pert Chart that lists the entire future of the NASA space mission,

1. Walk on the moon
2. ???
3. Profit!

Re:Return to a space suit design of the 1960s (1)

GLMDesigns (2044134) | about a year ago | (#45705593)

The profit is coming. Companies will mine resources and manufacture items in earth orbit / elsewhere and then sell/use the items to do more mining and more exploring and more expansion. The profit will come. The excitement will come. And the investment bubble put the 1999-2000 tech bubble to shame. :-)

Re:Return to a space suit design of the 1960s (4, Interesting)

mlts (1038732) | about a year ago | (#45705559)

NASA might have been expensive, but they pioneered a lot of things that are used every day, and not just Tang.

One can list hundreds of things that have come from NASA's moon launches and are used in common products these days. LEDs, airplane de-icing systems, fire-resistant materials, and non-destructive stress testing are just starters.

Of course, NASA has become the political whipping boy because it doesn't have immediate ROI. No, sending a robot to Mars might not have dollars rolling in, but the technological hurdles overcome to do the missions are things learned and can be used in the private sector.

Re:Return to a space suit design of the 1960s (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#45706159)

FTR, tang was NOT made by NASA it was just used by NASA and therefore marketed as the drink astronauts drink! and since astronauts were like rockstars in that era, everyone started drinking tang

Re:Return to a space suit design of the 1960s (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45706479)

And then more recently Kraft decided to change the formula and strip out most of the added vitamins and the tangy flavor, so now it's just orange kool-aid with extra calcium to make it thick and chalky. At least we stil have this [youtube.com]

Re:Return to a space suit design of the 1960s (4, Interesting)

thrich81 (1357561) | about a year ago | (#45705827)

"They never learned to build infrastructure. They never wanted to launch a mission that had any risk." It's hard to tell what NASA you are talking about here, NASA in the '60s or NASA in the 2000's? If it was NASA in the 60's then you are wrong. NASA in the 60's was all about risky missions. I personally heard Frank Borman at a conference a few years ago state that when he launched on Apollo 8 he figured that he had a 50% chance of coming back. For lasting infrastructure, the Vehicle Assembly Building and the crawler-transporter at Kennedy were built for the first Saturn V then used through the Space Shuttle program with plans for use by SLS. Same for the engine test stands at Stennis in Mississippi. On the pert charts -- one of the acknowledged major accomplishments of the Apollo Program was the development of a management process to successfully pull off such a gigantic and fast moving program.

Re:Return to a space suit design of the 1960s (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#45706171)

Spent money like water, came up with the shortest path to "beating them Ruskies"

Spend money like Wall Street, come up with the shortest path to "bankrupt the Nation".

That sounds similar to what the government is doing now . . . except we don't have anything to show off for it . . .

What planet are you living on? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45710159)

"They never learned to build infrastructure"

Um.... HUGE piles of cash spent in that era built INFRASTRUCTURE that NASA uses to this day: Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center, The giant engine test stands at Stennis and at Edwards and the smaller engine facilities at WhiteSands, the space vac chambers at JSC and at Glenn, the Gantry at Langley, the manufacturing facilities at Michoud, the dynamic test stand at Marshall (big enough to shake and measure both a complete Saturn V stack and a complete Space Shuttle stack, etc. There are actually some serious people who complain annually that NASA built and tries to maintain too much infrastructure

"They never wanted to launch a mission that had any risk."

Crazy. Nearly every Pre-Shuttle mission carried huge risk. Apollo 8 (first manned Saturn V launch, where each preceding unmanned one had problems) went around the moon with no lunar module (Apollo 13 type failure would have meant DEATH). Apollo15 Lost one of its three parachutes on return to earth (NASA's long and not-always-happy experience with parachutes was a contributing factor in the decision to go from capsules to shuttles) had the failed main chute done more damage to, or become more entangled with, one of the other two the crew likely would have perished on live TV. NONE of the Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo flights had ANY possibility of rescue.... if things had gone wrong and some backup procedure or system had failed to fill-in crews would have been lost. Neil Armstrong's test pilot training and skill is the only reason he and Dave Scott survived their Gemini 8 mission...... twas quite possible somebody else would have been 1st on the moon.

Big disposable boosters guarantee space travel will always be a big expensive money hole and astronauts always government employees on rare and very expensive missions.... as would be true of intercontinental air travel if every flight carried only several people and threw away the airliner. Capsules under parachutes are similarly very limiting..... there's a limit to how much mass you can reliable land under redundant parachute systems (Military cargo drops will always have higher limits by not using redundant chutes needed for human safety).

Stop watching Star Trek and try getting an engineering degree..... or at least study some aerospace history.....

So, what is the ideal suit? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#45705651)

For short space-walks (under 8 hours), why does the skin need air? Have a suit that's skin-tight (and air tight). It'd keep the pressure without having the bulk and weight of a large air-tight suit. Have cooling/heating lines run in the surface of the skin, like Tron. Then, all you'd need is a helmet attached to the skinsuit. Bonuses if the heating/cooling lines glow orange/red when heating and blue when cooling.

The current suits will last for as long as you have air, with waste disposal and food built in. But go back to basics. A suit that can be warn for longer, but you'd have to go back inside to take breaks for biological reasons should make the suit cheaper and much more maneuverable.

So why do we need a floating life-support capsule for a space suit? Am I missing something?

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (2)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#45706013)

For short space-walks (under 8 hours), why does the skin need air? Have a suit that's skin-tight (and air tight). It'd keep the pressure without having the bulk and weight of a large air-tight suit. Have cooling/heating lines run in the surface of the skin, like Tron. Then, all you'd need is a helmet attached to the skinsuit.

There has been a fair amount of research on skin suits. One of the downsides is that they have to be individually fitted to each astronaut, but they'd probably be light enough that you could carry six suits for the same mass as one existing suit.

I suspect the big downside is that they've never been tested in space, whereas NASA know their existing suits work.

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (1)

dj245 (732906) | about a year ago | (#45707957)

For short space-walks (under 8 hours), why does the skin need air? Have a suit that's skin-tight (and air tight). It'd keep the pressure without having the bulk and weight of a large air-tight suit. Have cooling/heating lines run in the surface of the skin, like Tron. Then, all you'd need is a helmet attached to the skinsuit.

There has been a fair amount of research on skin suits. One of the downsides is that they have to be individually fitted to each astronaut, but they'd probably be light enough that you could carry six suits for the same mass as one existing suit.

I suspect the big downside is that they've never been tested in space, whereas NASA know their existing suits work.

The skin doesn't need air, but wouldn't the body have decompression-like symptoms if the static pressure went from 14.7psi to 0? The only solution with a skin-tight suit would be to ratchet up the tightness. This would make putting them on in 0g pretty difficult. Plus when you put it on inside the spacecraft, you would have nearly 14.7psi + suit pressure on the skin. That probably isn't comfortable. Additionally, extra pressure over the body makes it difficult to breathe. Even 2psi is tough- just try sitting on the bottom of a 4ft (~2psi pressure differential) pool and breathing air through a hose to the surface. It is difficult if not impossible.

I am not a rocket scientist but I don't think a completely skin-tight suit is possible. Maybe if you blew it up "gimp suit" style but that doesn't seem like a great idea either.

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45706063)

Need to figure out how to make flexible things with 3d printers.

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45706073)

Interesting point - the problem in space is usually not cold but dissipating heat, so insulation wouldn't be such an issue; at asteroid belt distance or dark side of the moon you'd be less exposed to radiation, so bulky anti-rad wouldn't be needed.
Would the be a problem with breathing? I mean, literally expanding your chest to inhale if the suit was tight enough to prevent decompression?

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (2)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#45707323)

Would the be a problem with breathing? I mean, literally expanding your chest to inhale if the suit was tight enough to prevent decompression?

Your lungs are designed to work against 15psi. The hard part is preventing them from expanding too much when full of air while your body is in a vacuum, not allowing them to expand at all.

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#45707749)

If the suit pushes back with 15 psi, you'd not even know you had it on, from a breathing perspective. And lungs even work under water, at 100 psi against them, you just pressurize the incoming air a similar amount. Same as you'd do in space. In fact, thinking of that, diving suits and space suits should be much more similar than they are. A space suit is not unlike a diving dry suit, with an old-time pumped air non-SCUBA helmet (updated slightly). So try to make the new ones more like a wet suit. If the body was held in a compression-suit that was breathable, what would the effects be? Overheat because you don't have air to cool you? freeze because vacuum is cold? Moisture in the skin boil, causing skin-death? I can only speculate on things they could look at. I don't have a chamber and an army of monkeys to test on.

Why do you even need a helmet? Have the air fed directly into the lungs with the nasal tubes, like they use in hospitals. When you don't need a big bulb over your head to hold in air, you can then use form fitting coverings. I'd suggest a non-compressible fluid in a scuba mask. That way, the vacuum won't rip off a gas-filled mask. Contact lenses to compensate for the refraction, and water-filled diving mask should be able to work in a vacuum. A scuba-like head covering, and you have no exposed skin, no explosive internal pressure, and a cheaper/easier suit that's much smaller and lighter.

The problem with thinking oustide the box, is that all the people who built the box get very angry with you.

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45710335)

Why do you even need a helmet? Have the air fed directly into the lungs with the nasal tubes, like they use in hospitals.

Then there would be a 100 kPa pressure difference between your airway and the tissues around it. That is a not a good thing. You could reduce the differential by using pure oxygen at about 14 kPa. The lesser pressure difference probably wouldn't be lethal, but would still hurt like hell. You can't reduce it much further due to needing enough oxygen to function.

There are existing experimental suits providing mechanical pressure over much of the body. They still use a helmet and air-filled gloves because providing mechanical pressure to those areas is extremely difficult. Also, once you're talking about a face-enclosing mask there's pretty much no practical difference between that and a helmet.

Filling it with a liquid would not provide any benefit whatsoever vs air, and substantial extra difficulties. Liquid under pressure will exert just as much force on a mask as gas at equal pressure, will squirt out of leaks just as enthusiastically, and with possibly even faster pressure drop due to incompressibility.

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#45710613)

Filling it with a liquid would not provide any benefit whatsoever vs air, and substantial extra difficulties. Liquid under pressure will exert just as much force on a mask as gas at equal pressure, will squirt out of leaks just as enthusiastically, and with possibly even faster pressure drop due to incompressibility.

If you "pour" a glass of water in space, it will not expand. It will clump and not explosively decompress as a cup of air would. So I'm unclear how you got to the conclusion you did. A leak around a weak seal would result in severe problems with an air-mask, and few (if any) for a water-filled mask.

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (1)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | about a year ago | (#45706669)

A suit that can be warn for longer, but you'd have to go back inside to take breaks for biological reasons should make the suit cheaper and much more maneuverable.

Nothing is fast in space. I'm sure you would use up much more time in ingress/egress than you would ever save.

Of course, then there's the obvious failsafe scenario... if your suit can keep you alive for 24 hours instead of, say, 2 and some emergency forces you to need that extra support, it's there.

On the other hand, the lighted heating/cooling lines would be super cool.

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#45707283)

If you're supplying breathing air for the astronaut the suit is going to inflate, unless you want to put an airtight seal around their neck (don't think that would be too popular) you're not going to keep the air from the rest of the suit. An inflated suit also allows easier breathing by its wearer, they don't have to fight to deflate the lungs.

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#45707335)

If you're supplying breathing air for the astronaut the suit is going to inflate, unless you want to put an airtight seal around their neck

Which is exactly what a skin suit is designed to do. It's more like a leotard with a helmet than an Apollo or Shuttle space suit.

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#45707723)

Two questions then; 1) How do you avoid choking your wearer if the seal is tight enough to keep air out of the suit? 2) Is the suit going to assist the astronaut to deflate their lungs after each breath? If not, how are you preventing fatigue?

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45710507)

1) Such choking occurs when the external applied pressure is substantially greater than airway pressure. Once the difference exceeds the ability of the surrounding tissues to support, the airway collapses. In this case the problem is the other way around: the airway is at much greater pressure than the environment, and the difficulty is to contain it without stressing the surrounding tissues too much. In this case, external mechanical pressure is a good thing!

2) Yes, the suits in development do assist with respiration. Last I read, they were using an inflatable bladder to make breathing more of a "constant volume" process. It wouldn't be necessary if the suit could provide exactly the same mechanical pressure around the torso as the air pressure, but that's technically extremely difficult.

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#45710583)

Have you ever worn a dry suit? It has a neck ring designed to keep 1000 psi (guessed number) of water out of the suit. It's not deadly tight.
You don't need to "force" the air out of your lungs. The suit, providing ~15 psi of compression, would give you an Earth-like breathing experience (where pressure is effectively equal inside and outside the lungs).

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#45710857)

No, haven't worn a dry suit. The reason that I asked about breathing is because your lungs would be at a higher pressure than the vacuum surrounding you. This isn't a pressure while diving, since the pressure supplied by the breathing equipment equalizes with the water pressure. In a typical pressure suit the pressure in the lungs equals that inside the suit. The AC above mentioned solutions in development.

Re:So, what is the ideal suit? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#45711457)

The reason that I asked about breathing is because your lungs would be at a higher pressure than the vacuum surrounding you.

If the pressure suit presses on you at 15 psi, then your lungs will be pressure-equal, in and out (presuming the air feed is pressurized to 15 psi). Likely, though, you'd be pressurized to something about 5 psi of pure O2, no need to ship the N2 up to space. O2 requirements are based on the partial pressure, so lower total pressure and higher concentration would solve all the problems.

Obligatory Slashdot Beta comment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45706229)

I'm using Slashdot Beta, and it looks great! I can tell it's great too, because so many change-fearing geeks here hate it. I love being the minority, and I look forward to being down-modded into oblivion for daring to oppose the will of the hivemind! Whoo!

Re:Obligatory Slashdot Beta comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45707239)

You'll be downmodded for being an offtopic troll, dipshit. FOAD.

Be a shame if a meteorite were to puncture that (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year ago | (#45706525)

Said the military contractor to the gullible public.

1970s SF (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about a year ago | (#45708515)

They basically had incredibly thin flexible suits which were sprayed on most of the body and dissolved chemically off of them afterwards.

Most of the body just needs pressure containment and protection from exposure.
You could put on a non pressurized heat protective layer on top of the pressure layer of the suit.

I think we have the fabrics to do this now- just not spray / dissolve.

But much simpler suits- not more complicated. Separate the heat/cold protection from the pressure layer. Two or more piece/layers.

Re:1970s SF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45710651)

Maintaining a constant mechanical pressure over large areas of the body in every reasonable posture poses a lot of technical challenges. Even for low pressures barely adequate for breathing pure oxygen, the integrated force over the body's surface is comparable to the weight of a small bus.

That force has to be distributed evenly around the astronaut's skin, and remain consistent while they move without chafing. A few percent difference in pressure is tolerable, but may cause discomfort. More than a few percent can rapidly cause medical problems. It's a solvable problem, but still requires a lot of research.

Solved in 1960's (2)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about a year ago | (#45710595)

There's a much lighter, working space suit design that's been available for years, and has been repeatedly redesigned. It's called a "skin suit". Essentially a wetsuit with a helmet, the suit relies on the astronaut's own skin as part of its structure holding in the astronaut's body fluids. Air, or oxygen, released into the helmet passes down the suits structure and through the astronaut, themselves, and slowly leaks out the slightly porous material. This avoids the mechanical pressurizaiton problems of providing air at enough pressure to breathe, but dealing with the pressure throughout the enite surace of the suit. It also providing critical cooling for most space suit use. It does consume air or oxygen in use, but the mass lost in days of use is quite modest compared to the mass, difficulty of use, complexity, and mechanical fragility of the heavy and overbuilt modern space suits.

An example can be seen at http://spaceindustrynews.com/mits-next-mars-space-suit/ [spaceindustrynews.com] , The technology has worked since the 1960's, when Paul Webb originally designed it.

Re:Solved in 1960's (1)

twosat (1414337) | about a year ago | (#45712317)

You beat me to it, it's called the "Biosuit". Here are some more-recent articles, including photos of Professor Dava Newman modelling the skin-tight suit.

http://www.businessinsider.com.au/dava-newmans-skintight-spacesuit-could-be-nasas-future-2013-12 [businessinsider.com.au]
http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oce/appel/ask/issues/45/45s_building_future_spacesuit.html [nasa.gov]

Re:Solved in 1960's (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about a year ago | (#45712537)

Oh. Oh my. I'd never actually seen that. That was one of the scariest YouTube videos I'e ever seen.

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