Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Mars NASA Technology Science

MIT Works On Mars Space Suit 71

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-uniforms dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with a story about MIT's work on space suits to be used by Mars astronauts. "When we send the first humans to Mars we will need to get the most scientific data in the smallest amount of time while not exhausting our astronauts in the process. Dava J. Newman has been working on a 'biosuit' that's designed to do just that....Dava’s suit would be a huge leap forward in terms of construction as well. They’ve enlisted the expertise of Dainese, an Italian manufacturer of motorcycle racing 'leathers'—leather and carbon-fiber suits designed to protect racers traveling at up to 200 mph. The suit would be a degree safer than current space suits. While a puncture or scrape in a traditional space suit would cause a dramatic decrease in pressure and would be traumatic, even deadly, the 'biosuit' could be patched with a high-tech ace bandage. The wearer would wrap it around the punctured area to stop the leak almost instantly. Pressure loss would be minimal and the astronaut would be able to continue working and finish his or her task. "
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

MIT Works On Mars Space Suit

Comments Filter:
  • I think he might be over-anticipating here.
    • Is this ever going to be used, and is this going to speed up people going to Mars?

      I think that, if they NASA et al really wanted to go to Mars and actually do a mission, they'd have developed a proper space suit to match the mission pretty fast. They also managed to do everything for the Moon mission in the 60's, so ...

      • NASA contracted the space suit for the Apollo program to the firms Hamilton Standard and International Latex Corporation.

      • by Teancum (67324)

        Is this ever going to be used, and is this going to speed up people going to Mars?

        I think that, if they NASA et al really wanted to go to Mars and actually do a mission, they'd have developed a proper space suit to match the mission pretty fast. They also managed to do everything for the Moon mission in the 60's, so ...

        On the list of things necessary to get to Mars and build a permanent outpost there (like the ISS or the Amundsen-Scott Base on the South Pole), I would put getting a proper space suit working is rather far down the list and one of the more insignificant issues to be resolved.... particularly because proven spacesuit designs have already been made in previous flights by at least three different nations and presumably different companies all trying to do the same thing.

        Back when NASA was trying to figure out

        • by Anonymous Coward

          On the list of things necessary to get to Mars and build a permanent outpost there (like the ISS or the Amundsen-Scott Base on the South Pole), I would put getting a proper space suit working is rather far down the list and one of the more insignificant issues to be resolved.... particularly because proven spacesuit designs have already been made in previous flights by at least three different nations and presumably different companies all trying to do the same thing.

          Well sure, but we're not talking about a program that's at the top of NASA's priority list here, either. It's an MIT program that's been going on for years (I saw this lady on tv a good, long time ago).

        • Re:Careful tiger, (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cusco (717999) <brian.bixby@gmai l . c om> on Monday September 03, 2012 @02:48PM (#41215219)
          spacesuit designs have already been made in previous flights by at least three different nations

          Yes, and all of them suck to one extent or another. The suit is one of the main reasons why EVAs are very limited in duration, they spend a lot of their energy fighting against the suit to move. Colonists, as opposed to explorers, need something that can be worn for most of a day without exhausting the wearer. They'll probably never get as easy as the zip-up space suit with the bubble helmet of Buck Rogers, but there's a lot of room for improvement.
          • by shaitand (626655)

            colonists need to live in a giant bubble that alleviates the need for them to actually wear any kind of special suit all day...

            • by Grishnakh (216268)

              Not feasible. Sure, the goal should be to build a giant bubble or dome for them to live in, but 1) there's going to be some time until they get that thing built and ready to inhabit, and you'll need construction workers walking around outside to get it built, and 2) the Mars base isn't going to be a place for people to just stay inside all day long and telecommute, they're going to need to go out in the field at some point to do work, whether it's checking out sites for geology studies or figuring out wher

              • by shaitand (626655)

                Whether you have suits or a giant bubble you are talking about tanked gas a bubble with CO2 scrubbing is more efficient. I'd expect any sort of colonization effort to have plans for a base camp from the start. It may be temporary but I'd expect at least a large inflatable habitat.

                Point taken about field work. Although I wouldn't be expecting an early Mars colony to be doing much more than establishing a mars colony for quite some time. We wouldn't want them to stop engaging in farming and construction just

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In normal spacesuits, it is painful to use your hands and eventually you will lose your fingernails due to chafing inside of the gloves. From a user's comfort perspective, this is probably the biggest issue. Spacewalkers would love this tech if it has decent flexible gloves that are resistant to puncturing (which is among the reasons traditional gloves are built so rigidly).

    • by pahles (701275)
      I have never heard of an astronaut who lost his/her fingernails. Where did you get this info?
      • by cffrost (885375)

        I have never heard of an astronaut who lost his/her fingernails. Where did you get this info?

        I saw this on TV. One case involved a young psychiatric patient named Samara; she spent seven days trying to claw her way out of the suit at the bottom of a gravity well.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Seriously, that amount of research and money, all the way out on BFE Mars, and a suit tear means using a glorified ace bandage? That suit should be virtually impenetrable and/or self-healing.

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday September 03, 2012 @11:13AM (#41213269)

    ... is the need to maintain sufficient internal pressure to sustain human life without being too stiff to work in for long periods. Suits made more skin tight [wikipedia.org] are the current area of research. That seems to be what MIT is working on.

    I'd like to see some work along the lines of a smart G suit [wikipedia.org] type garment that can sense the occupant's movements and compensate by reshaping itself dynamically. Probably something based on artificial muscle fibers rather than compressed air.

    • The problem with all the high tech approaches is power. We simply don't have a portable power source that could supply energy for long enough to make any of the really cool ideas work.

  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday September 03, 2012 @11:15AM (#41213277) Homepage
    In his Mars trilogy beginning with Red Mars [amazon.com] , Kim Stanley Robinson spent quite some time musing on suits for exploring the surface of Mars. I found it interesting that, although Mars has a very thin atmosphere compared to Earth, the presence of any atmosphere at all makes it much easier to design a flexible, comfortable suit than for the landings on the moon or spacewalks.
    • by Hentes (2461350) on Monday September 03, 2012 @11:24AM (#41213337)

      On the other hand, Mars suits have to withstand the sandstorms there.

    • by Tx (96709)

      ISTR the "walkers" used in Red Mars were along the lines of the suits described in the article, i.e. a form-fitting mechanical resistance suit, rather than a pressure suit. There was also some sort of open-cycle breathing system that was much less bulky that what we have today, but I can't remember the details.

      • Unless you have some kind of seal at the neck area, an "open cycle" breathing system is probably too inefficient. You have too great a volume of air that you are exhaling directly into. That in turn would probably cause serious moisture problems, as well as having to scrub CO2 from the air in the suit (as opposed to just supplying more fresh air ala Scuba).
  • spaceindustrynews.com has worse editors than Slashdot!

    The suit would be a degree safer

    Is that more or less than a "smidge"?

    While a puncture of scrape

    I'll assume that's meant to be "or scrape." What constitutes a scrape in a spacesuit, anyway?

    • by sjames (1099)

      Same as for skin I would assume.

    • I suppose sooner or later, someone had to suggest the "duct tape" approach to space suit repair. And why not? A small puncture or tear would probably not compromise insulation very much, so just sealing the hole temporarily would seem to be a good solution.

      Well, I think they're talking about hard-shell suits here, so I am assuming a "scrape" is probably a breach more like a scratch or tear than a hole.
  • Close, but no cigar. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    While an easily patchable suit seems like a great idea, what we really need is a suit that patches itself. Astronauts may not be able to see or reach the site of a suit puncture, in which case their screwed. A suit that has some sort of self-sealing properties or maybe with a thin layer of that green goop used to seal bicycle tires from punctures would be a better idea IMO.

  • This is old news, but there are better images out there. The designer tends to model it herself - if you've got it, flaunt it, I suppose.

    Her own design page, including some photos of the construction process: http://mvl.mit.edu/EVA/biosuit/ [mit.edu]

    What looks to be a hapless grad student modeling it (but that's just a guess on my part): http://alumweb.mit.edu/groups/amita.old/images/people/Newman.jpg [mit.edu]

    Cnet slideshow: http://news.cnet.com/2300-11397_3-6197224.html [cnet.com]
    • by downhole (831621)

      What's strange is how old and vauge it all is. There's pics of the same stuff from 2000. Have they made any progress since then? They've got some cool pictures, but are they willing to set foot in a Mars-simulated atmosphere yet? If not, what do they need to do to get there, and how much progress have they made on those problems in the last decade?

  • I have no fewer than six different space suit designs appropriate for Mars and wearable by humans. I also have a couple for Reticulans but I can't make them, just trade for them.

    UFO Afterlight: underrated :)

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday September 03, 2012 @01:40PM (#41214645)
    I love the diagram on her site where they break down the layers [mit.edu]:
    "Temperature and moisture control".
    Remember the Far Side cartoon where two scientists are staring at a chalkboard and "magic happens" is written in the middle? Yeeeeaaaaaaaah.

    Newman needs to spend less time showing herself off wearing mockups and playing celebrity space cadet - and more time actually working on the practical problems. A significant amount of sweat is generated by the body even under light exertion. Moderate exertion is even worse. For example, when cycling in comfortable summer temperatures, it's easy to go through a litre of water or more every hour.

    There's also the problem of insulation from temperatures ranging from as high as 31 degrees below freezing, to -161 degrees F. That's roughly the temperature where carbon dioxide precipitates into a solid, folks.

  • Is this suit full of fail already?

    I was under the impression you didn't really need a pressure suit on Mars. A good winter coat and an oxygen mask, sure.

    Now keeping Earth bacterial fauna off Mars is another issue. But there's no deadly fear of a suit puncture.

    • I was under the impression you didn't really need a pressure suit on Mars. A good winter coat and an oxygen mask, sure.

      Your impression is seriously misinformed. The atmospheric pressure on Mars is about 6 mbar. Humans cannot survive below about 62 mbar without a pressure suit.

  • Jerry Pournelle was writing SF stories using suits just like this back in the 1970s. HERE [projectrho.com] is a page describing this suit, and including a quote from Pournelle's story "Exiles To Glory".
  • Her website shows a list of papers on this subject:
    www.elasticspacesuit.com/documentation/ [elasticspacesuit.com]

    First one is from 1968. I know it is a bit pessimistic but this seems like the skin tight space suit is one of those perpetual tech dreams (alongside flying cars, fusion power plants, space elevators, hypersonic aircraft etc.) where once in a while someone comes up and says that we have the technology now or is just around the corner (only wait for 5 more years...).
    From looking at the history of technological innovatio

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

Working...