NASA is designing its first new spacesuit in twenty years
With NASA looking to reinvent itself for possible missions to the Moon and Mars, work has begun on bringing the equipment in its aging inventory into the modern era to help facilitate those lofty goals.
A case in point is the new spacesuit that is being developed to replace the twenty-year old model that was first pressed into service back in 1992. Originally only meant for astronauts on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, the spacesuit that the world over is used to seeing is both outdated and ill-suited for upcoming missions. Scientists and engineers at NASA have been hard at work developing a new prototype called the Z-1, which is undergoing heavy testing right now.
The z-1 Prototype Spacesuit and Portable Life Support System is a drastically different beast than the spacesuit it will replace. For starters, the z-1 has its own airlock. Called a “rear-entry” suit, the new design has an astronaut crawling into the suit from the back, near the top. This is done through a small, airtight hatch that has the ability to latch on to a docking terminal or other vehicle such as a smaller spacecraft or rover unit.
This entry method is said to be much more efficient since the suit itself will operate at the same pressures found in the larger space-borne habitats, cutting down on the amount of oxygen an astronaut will need to use to during EVA missions.
Along with the major changes mentioned above, the Z-1 is said to be much more flexible, something that every astronaut will jump for joy about. Working in zero-gravity is challenge enough, but having to deal with a bulky suit at the same time makes it a real challenge.
Of course, with NASA having no concrete plans regarding sending humans back to the Moon or further afield to the Red Planet, there’s no word on when or if ever this suit will be pressed into service.
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