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Help NASA pick the next space suit

Thu, 03/27/2014 - 8:44am
Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor

Last time America was allowed to vote on something online, we ended up with a cat as the new piece to Monopoly. (Thanks, America.)

Absolutely no one was surprised because when you count on the internet to select things, you’re playing with fire. (See: Lay’s: Do Us a Flavor Campaign)

But, despite our past questionable selections, NASA has decided to entrust the American people with selecting the design for the next generation of space suit. (In all seriousness, I think this is a great idea. It's a good way to get the public involved and get kids excited about space.)

See: Photos of the Day: NASA's next spacesuit

The suit:

The Z-1The Z-2 suit is NASA’s newest prototype and the successor to the Z-1 design. The goal is to create a suit that’s designed for deep-space missions and the Z-1 tackled a few of the problems with traditional suits including flexible joints, more radiation protection and a hatch that allows the suit to “dock” with a portal on the spacecraft or rover.

The Z-1 ranked in as one of Time magazines Best Inventions of 2012, but the Z-2 is taking it up a notch. This “planetary mobility suit” was the first version to be tested in full vacuum. (I assume that went okay.) They also used 3D human laser scans to size the suits. Fit was a big focus on this version of the suit, which is features a re-sizeable hard upper torso (instead of the soft torso of the Z-1) to protect the astronauts.  Researchers also utilized 3D-printed hardware in the development process. It’s also a pretty tough suit and integrates the most advanced impact resistant composite structures on the upper and lower torso system.

The suit—which should be fully built by November—will be tested in vacuums and the pool used to train astronauts. It will also undergo testing to ensure micrometeorite, thermal, and radiation protection.

I call it....waterSo, the hard part is all done by the experts, but you—the non-expert—can pick the cover layer. The cover layer is what protects the suit, but ILC—the primary suit vendor—and Philadelphia University came up with three different versions of what the suit could look like.  

 

The Options:

Option A: “Biomimicry”

This suit is designed to draw its inspiration from the ocean. The designers focused on the bioluminescent fish, as well as fish and reptile-like designs.

Editor's Vote: I give this one a “meh” and a shrug. I love the ocean, but I don't love this design.

Option B: “Technology”To infinity...and beyond!

This theme seems like a no-brainer to me because combining space and technology make sense. There is a focus on electroluminescent wire and light-emitting patches. Part of the design incorporates abrasion resistant panels, so that’s probably pretty useful.

Editor's Vote: This one looks a little like Buzz Lightyear to me. This makes sense given the Z-1 looked exactly like Buzz Lightyear.

Option C: “Trends in Society”

This theme is based on what clothing could look like in the future. It also uses electroluminescent wire and is designed to look like sportswear.

I call it...dirty laundryEditor's Vote: This design just looks dirty to me. It almost seems like something you’d see in a post-apocalyptic world.

I’m going to have to go with Design B: The Buzz Lightyear 2.0. This is mostly because it seems to make sense as a theme.(And also it looks very futuristic.)

If you don’t agree with me and you’d rather have a Little Mermaid or Needs to be Washed version, vote here.

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