Traditional bulky spacesuits "do not afford the mobility and locomotion capability that astronauts need for partial gravity exploration missions. We really must design for greater mobility and enhanced human and robotic capability," Newman says.Instead of gas pressurization, which is used by traditional spacesuits, the new ones from Newman rely on mechanical counter-pressure, which involves wrapping tight layers of material around the body. The trick is to make a suit that is skintight but stretches with the body, allowing freedom of movement.
Newman, her colleague Jeff Hoffman, her students and a local design firm, Trotti and Associates, have been working on the project for about seven years. Their prototypes are not yet ready for space travel, but demonstrate what they're trying to achieve--a lightweight, skintight suit that will allow astronauts to become truly mobile lunar and Mars explorers.
Newman anticipates that the BioSuit could be ready by the time humans are ready to launch an expedition to Mars, possibly in about 10 years. Current spacesuits could not handle the challenges of such an exploratory mission, Newman says.
Besides offering more mobility, the suits will also offer more safety against punctures by tiny meteorites or other objects.
Another interesting application is that the suit can be designed to offer varying resistance levels, allowing astronauts the exercise against the suite during long flights to Mars. Additionally, Newman says the technology also has applications on Earth like helping people walk or athletic training. More details at MIT News.