Posting in Aerospace
The space agency awards a $500 million contract for development of a suit astronauts may wear to the moon or Mars.
When you have a big outing planned, you simply must have the right outfit. Such is the logic behind the $500 million contract awarded to develop NASA’s next spacesuit. The suit will not only outfit astronauts outside the International Space Station and on the planned 2020 trip to the moon, but it will be able to sustain life for up to 120 hours and will be suitable for trips to Mars.
“Without the suit there is no manned mission,” said Terry Hill, NASA’s spacesuit system engineering project manager for Constellation, the agency’s program for exploration. “We’re working [with] what we’ve learned from past programs like Apollo and Space Shuttle, and we were challenged by Constellation program management to develop a one-suit system to do it all.”
The new suit will have a plug and play design so that different modules (arms, legs, feet) can be used interchangeably with different torsos. (Think of it as several outfits for the price of one.) The suit will be lighter weight, more flexible and more breathable than existing suits and will be equipped with a computer that links directly back to Earth. (The suits will also be easier to put on; existing suits take three hours to don.) The suit is being designed and developed by Oceaneering International, which partnered with David Clark Company, veterans of spacesuit development.
"It's one reconfigurable suit that can do the job of three specialized suits," said Hill in Technology Review. He said the first completed suit will be ready for testing in September, and the final suit design will be ready by 2013 and ready for flight in 2015. The lunar suit will incorporate a computer and will act like a node on the Internet, relaying data back to Earth.
Currently, astronauts wear two different suits—one for launch and ascent phases of spaceflight, called the Advanced Crew Escape Suit; and another for doing jobs outside the space shuttle or International Space Station, called the Extravehicular Mobility Unit. The new suit will consist of two configurations. The first is similar to the current space shuttle escape suit, and the second uses the same limb sections, which snap onto a new reinforced torso. For lunar excursions, astronauts would also wear an outer garment to protect them from micrometeorites in the harsh lunar atmosphere.
Click here to read about Space Adventures’ lunar mission.
Jan 27, 2010
I think the US Air Force has a female "Depends" undergarment that recently revolutionized female pilot comfort. It takes card of urine, and it keeps them from having to use the old fashioned jug the male pilots always used. Now both sexes use the same invention, but it is rather expensive. Borrowing that technology for Space should be easy.
As per wcallahan's comment, you need to get your facts streight, he is cutting the money to build a new Space Craft,NASA will still have all its current projects and even the final say so on the Space Craft, there are 6 private companys wroking to get the contract which will create more jobs and reduce the national debt.
Mind you, these are some tech writers, so we should probably cut them a little slack when they get the wording imperfect on an aerospace story. The moon does have an extremely tenuous atmosphere, mostly outgassing from the surface material attracted by the Moon's weak gravity. It is close enough to vacuum that unless you have a very precision instrument you cannot even tell it is there. Worse yet, it's held weakly enough to get blown off by the "solar wind," the stream of faint, but high-energy particles constantly being thrown off by the sun. The Earth (as well as the ISS in low-orbit) is protected from the solar wind by its magnetic field. The Moon (and anyone on it) is not nearly so lucky. I think that the solar wind exposure, combined with omnipresent lunar dust is more of the "harsh atmosphere" problem with which the suit designers are trying to deal. As dangerous as the radiation (solar, cosmic, etc.) exposure is, the dust is a real problem, because it's effectively glass ground to the consistency of baby-powder: super-fine and super-abrasive. Our Apollo astronauts used to come into the landers with dusty suits and ended up looking like space-age coal miners as the dust got into everything (no word on pneumosilicosis or other such health issues, but then their exposure was very temporary, as opposed to workers on a permanent lunar base as is (was?) being planned by NASA). Keeping the dust out of the vehicles and, more importantly, preventing it from damaging seals and other moving parts is going to be a significant challenge. One interesting answer to the problem that NASA has come up with is designing a presurized lunar rover where the EVA suit "docks" with the back of rover, such that you only ever loose a tiny amount of air between the suit and the hatch (instead of Apollo's idea of dumping all of the air out of the lander and walking out the door) and you never take the suit inside. While this is good for not wasting air or getting any dust inside the rover / lander, now you have the problem that you have to design the suit for constant, not temporary exposure to the lunar environment. This is not an easy problem.
I have to chuckle at black...'s comment: > it is so cumbersome to use that it's almost not worth even using. Yeah, but the alternative isn't so attractive...
If you stop in at the Air and Space Museum, in D.C., and look at the labels on the earliest Mercury astronaut space suits, the first thing you notice is that they?re designed and built by private companies, just like these future ones being proposed. Before he died, my father knew one of the designers of these first astronaut suits. He met the fellow when he was working in the oil / petrochemical industry after this gentleman was laid off at the end of the Apollo program. When I was 8 years old this fellow, that my father knew, got me a private meeting with Allen L. Bean, the first resident astronaut here in the state of Texas. I looked like a little girl as I had long hair at the time. The story was that this man was the person who made NASA what it is today. That is, when LBJ signed the papers to turn what was once NACA into NASA, by buying the land that the LBJ (Johnson) Space center sits on, (and consolidating what was once spread out all over the Houston, Texas area) this fellow was supposed to have been a friend of LBJs at the time, and took care of finding the land and getting it purchased. The story was that this fellow, part of his job, was to be friends not only with every astronaut, from the first one to the end of the end of the Apollo mission, but to also be friends with their families. With the astronaut visit that this fellow arranged for me, when I was 8, at the LBJ facility, I was given a tour by one of the managers of that plant. He showed me around the Astronaut?s quarters building; building number four. One of the rooms that I took photos of, was the small film viewing room where the astronauts watched films. On one side wall were four framed astronaut photos. On the opposite wall three framed astronaut photos hung. These photos represented the seven astronauts who died before the first Space Shuttle disaster. Most of us remember the story of the three that burned up on the pad from a spark in an over-oxygenated space craft; but what about the other 4 dead astronauts? The aforementioned astronaut suit designer told my father that a couple of these four astronauts died in a sub-orbital flight that went wrong; that he gave the order to launch. The official story, to this date, is that these men all died in trainer jet accidents. To date I have never found anyone who even could acknowledge my father?s friend?s existence; let alone the story that he told my father; which my father told me. Many of you reading this will believe that everything I?ve said is a lie. I don?t blame you for doing so. I would probably also given the tables being turned. This sort of reminds me of when I use to work at Compaq, near the beginning of that company. I told this one young lady that I worked in the movie industry some times doing stunts. She didn?t believe me of course. Then one day I was doing some extra driving with the second unit (stunt team) on a motion picture in downtown Houston, Texas. And I jumped out of the car during a break and saw that same girl standing there with her huge boyfriend. She said that she thought I was lying when I had originally told her about my occasional stunt work. It?s amazing how you can tell someone the truth; but they never believe you. Sincerely; Mike Beaver http://www.profoundstates.com
I know it's been a while since man set foot on the moon but I didn't know it's been so long that it now has a "harsh lunar atmosphere."
The current space suits used by NASA started out with the same goals as the ones stated here, and wound up making compromises. Astronauts in space suits have to wear "Depends" to take care of their toilet needs because coming up with modular plumbing for both men and women of various sizes was just too hard and expensive. (Remember that crazy astronaut who made the drive from Houston to Florida nonstop wearing an adult diaper? This is probably how she came up with the idea.) I don't know how NASA is going to make a suit that lasts for 120 hours...
All I can say, is that it's about time that NASA made a new spacesuit. As aforementioned, it is so cumbersome to use that it's almost not worth even using. They were first used in 1968. That's a long time to keep a single design.
What's the future of that space suit when Obama cuts the Constellation program. No bucks, no Buck Rogers.