Spidey senses to tingle in orbit?

Posted by Anonymous
on Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Dava Newman models her BioSuit on the
MIT campus. Donna Coveney

Ever since NASA has launched people into space, astronauts have worn bulky, gas-pressurized outfits. Over time, these suits have increased in weight to 300 lbs. — limiting mobility. Thanks to MIT, astronauts could don a sleeker outfit on future missions.

Dava Newman, Jeff Hoffman, her students, and design firm Trotti and Associates have designed a Spandex and nylon BioSuit. According to MIT, this isn't your grandfather's spacesuit — unless your grandfather is Peter Parker. Gas pressurization, used in current suits, exerts a force on the astronaut's body to protect it from the vacuum of space. The MIT design relies on mechanical counter-pressure, which wraps tight layers of material around the body. The outfit is skintight, but stretches with the body, allowing increased mobility.

When an astronaut is in a micro-gravity environment, such as a spacewalk outside the shuttle, current suits are manageable, but, Newman says, "It's a whole different ballgame when we go to the Moon or Mars, and we have to go back to walking and running, or loping."

Another advantage to this design is fitness. Studies show astronauts lose up to 40 percent of muscle strength in space. The new outfits will offer varying resistance levels, allowing astronauts to exercise against the suits during a long flight to Mars.

The BioSuit isn't ready for space travel, but could be in time for a manned mission to Mars.

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