Sci-fi flicks’ depictions of astronauts usually involve them wearing a skin-tight suit, but the reality is modern day space explorers still wear a ‘bubble-like’ suit that provides just enough pressure for them to survive the vacuum of space.
MIT researchers, though, are seeking to inject some fashion sense into the decade old space suit with some new concept that will show off all the curves and edges that an astronaut possesses. The proposed suit is made of a lightweight and stretchy material that becomes pressurized when exposed to heat.
“With conventional spacesuits, you’re essentially in a balloon of gas that’s providing you with the necessary one-third of an atmosphere, to keep you alive in the vacuum of space,” said Dava Newman head of the suit’s design team and a professor of astronautics at MIT. “We want to achieve that same pressurization, but through mechanical counterpressure — applying the pressure directly to the skin, thus avoiding the gas pressure altogether.”
As fancy and promising as it sounds, the suit is still in its early stages of development. The only thing that’s been made so far is the fabric in its fast-tightening tourniquet form. Furthermore, the issue is the fabric becomes active with heat, which means astronauts will have to lug around some sort of battery, not to mention there needs to be a cooling mechanism so they don’t have to operate in an oven.
While there are still things for the researchers to work on, the benefits of having a suit that gives astronauts much more mobility will come into play when people are able to send explorers to places like Mars. Imagine if explorers had to trek the surface of Mars in a bubble suit, that wouldn’t be fashionable at all.