NASA Spacesuit Design With Sci-Fi Flair Prepares For Mars Missions

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NASA may have decommissioned the Space Shuttle, but it’s not the end of space exploration for the iconic agency which wants to send humans back to the Moon and on to Mars within the next few decades. And they’ll need something to wear up there—something tailored for the next generation of space travel.

The agency first introduced its Z-series prototype spacesuits back in 2012.

The Z-1′s neon green and white design recalled Buzz Lightyear (from Pixar’s animated film Toy Story). Testing included mobility, low-g (on a parabolic flight), and access through the suitport (a backpack-like hatch in the rear).

The line is to be designed for use in space as well on the surface of other planetary bodies (e.g., the Moon or Mars) and will include radiation shielding and improved materials and joint construction to facilitate movement in the bulky, pressurized suits.

Now, a few years on, NASA’s ready to advance their prototype from Z-1 to Z-2. The Z-2 suit includes some 3D-printed hardware and will be the first surface-specific planetary mobility suit to be tested in a full vacuum.

The agency opened three designs (physically the same but aesthetically different) to the voting public. In a landslide, the “Technology” design won 63% of the vote and officially evolves the Z-series from Buzz Lightyear to Tron.

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The Z-series will hopefully be worn by the first NASA astronauts to leave prints in Martian dust.

 In comparison to its predecessor Z-1, the Z-2 suit has a hard composite upper for added durability, more mobile hip and shoulder joints, space-ready boots, and materials compatible with a full vacuum.

Unlike the Z-1, the Z-2 suit has a hard composite upper for added durability, more mobile hip and shoulder joints, space-ready boots, and materials compatible with a full vacuum.

NASA will begin testing Z-2 this November in a vacuum chamber, a site mimicking the Martian surface, and Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab—an enormous indoor pool where astronauts train for space walks.

Z-2 will begin testing this November in a vacuum chamber, a site mimicking the Martian surface, and an enormous indoor pool where astronauts train for space walks.

Electroluminescent wiring and patches form the suit’s flashiest components—recalling the visual effects of suits worn in Tron, if not the fit. NASA says such lighted features might serve to more easily identify crew members.

Electroluminescent wiring and patches recall the visual effects of suits worn in Tron (if not the fit). NASA says such lighted features may serve to more easily identify crew members.

Image Credit: NASA

Discussion — 3 Responses

  • S Cotton 5354 May 11, 2014 on 11:28 am

    The tools look more like “ray guns” drawn for combat than power tools. Poor pose selection – could have been more “neural”

    • rudyilis S Cotton 5354 May 11, 2014 on 3:32 pm

      The poor guy on the right can only punch the aliens.

  • Nocz May 11, 2014 on 11:47 pm

    Yeah, is the crew member to the left akimbo drill tools? Hah