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NASA

NASA Testing Lighter Space Suits For Asteroid Work 54

Posted by samzenpus
from the astronaut's-new-clothes dept.
Zothecula writes "Sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step forward. NASA is carrying out initial tests on a new, lighter spacesuit for use by the crew of the Orion spacecraft that is currently under development. The tests are being carried out in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory near the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on a modified version of the pumpkin orange suit normally worn by Space Shuttle crews during liftoff and re-entry and is a return to a space suit design of the 1960s."
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NASA Testing Lighter Space Suits For Asteroid Work

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  • The harsh environment of deep space is no longer an excuse. There's an oblig. Simpsons reference I'm too lazy to look up.

    • by cusco (717999)

      Good. I hate 'The Simpsons', and any "obligatory" reference to any of its episodes (or even worse, Seinfeld) is an utter waste of electrons. /rant

  • Yep, NASA is all for a return to the 1960's. The Glory Days.

    Spent money like water, came up with the shortest path to "beating them Ruskies"

    They never learned to build infrastructure. They never wanted to launch a mission that had any risk. They apparently never read the proverb, "Those who refuse to face failure, need never worry about success."

    C'mon, guys. Let's go back to a capsule, water landings, Big Disposable Boosters.

    Maybe you should consider trying to reengineer an actual practical shuttle, and

    • by telchine (719345)

      Do you really have to make a Giant Pert Chart that lists the entire future of the NASA space mission,

      1. Walk on the moon
      2. ???
      3. Profit!

      • The profit is coming. Companies will mine resources and manufacture items in earth orbit / elsewhere and then sell/use the items to do more mining and more exploring and more expansion. The profit will come. The excitement will come. And the investment bubble put the 1999-2000 tech bubble to shame. :-)
    • by mlts (1038732) on Monday December 16, 2013 @02:06PM (#45705559)

      NASA might have been expensive, but they pioneered a lot of things that are used every day, and not just Tang.

      One can list hundreds of things that have come from NASA's moon launches and are used in common products these days. LEDs, airplane de-icing systems, fire-resistant materials, and non-destructive stress testing are just starters.

      Of course, NASA has become the political whipping boy because it doesn't have immediate ROI. No, sending a robot to Mars might not have dollars rolling in, but the technological hurdles overcome to do the missions are things learned and can be used in the private sector.

      • by ganjadude (952775)
        FTR, tang was NOT made by NASA it was just used by NASA and therefore marketed as the drink astronauts drink! and since astronauts were like rockstars in that era, everyone started drinking tang
    • by thrich81 (1357561) on Monday December 16, 2013 @02:29PM (#45705827)

      "They never learned to build infrastructure. They never wanted to launch a mission that had any risk." It's hard to tell what NASA you are talking about here, NASA in the '60s or NASA in the 2000's? If it was NASA in the 60's then you are wrong. NASA in the 60's was all about risky missions. I personally heard Frank Borman at a conference a few years ago state that when he launched on Apollo 8 he figured that he had a 50% chance of coming back. For lasting infrastructure, the Vehicle Assembly Building and the crawler-transporter at Kennedy were built for the first Saturn V then used through the Space Shuttle program with plans for use by SLS. Same for the engine test stands at Stennis in Mississippi. On the pert charts -- one of the acknowledged major accomplishments of the Apollo Program was the development of a management process to successfully pull off such a gigantic and fast moving program.

    • Spent money like water, came up with the shortest path to "beating them Ruskies"

      Spend money like Wall Street, come up with the shortest path to "bankrupt the Nation".

      That sounds similar to what the government is doing now . . . except we don't have anything to show off for it . . .

  • For short space-walks (under 8 hours), why does the skin need air? Have a suit that's skin-tight (and air tight). It'd keep the pressure without having the bulk and weight of a large air-tight suit. Have cooling/heating lines run in the surface of the skin, like Tron. Then, all you'd need is a helmet attached to the skinsuit. Bonuses if the heating/cooling lines glow orange/red when heating and blue when cooling.

    The current suits will last for as long as you have air, with waste disposal and food bui
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      For short space-walks (under 8 hours), why does the skin need air? Have a suit that's skin-tight (and air tight). It'd keep the pressure without having the bulk and weight of a large air-tight suit. Have cooling/heating lines run in the surface of the skin, like Tron. Then, all you'd need is a helmet attached to the skinsuit.

      There has been a fair amount of research on skin suits. One of the downsides is that they have to be individually fitted to each astronaut, but they'd probably be light enough that you could carry six suits for the same mass as one existing suit.

      I suspect the big downside is that they've never been tested in space, whereas NASA know their existing suits work.

      • by dj245 (732906)

        For short space-walks (under 8 hours), why does the skin need air? Have a suit that's skin-tight (and air tight). It'd keep the pressure without having the bulk and weight of a large air-tight suit. Have cooling/heating lines run in the surface of the skin, like Tron. Then, all you'd need is a helmet attached to the skinsuit.

        There has been a fair amount of research on skin suits. One of the downsides is that they have to be individually fitted to each astronaut, but they'd probably be light enough that you could carry six suits for the same mass as one existing suit.

        I suspect the big downside is that they've never been tested in space, whereas NASA know their existing suits work.

        The skin doesn't need air, but wouldn't the body have decompression-like symptoms if the static pressure went from 14.7psi to 0? The only solution with a skin-tight suit would be to ratchet up the tightness. This would make putting them on in 0g pretty difficult. Plus when you put it on inside the spacecraft, you would have nearly 14.7psi + suit pressure on the skin. That probably isn't comfortable. Additionally, extra pressure over the body makes it difficult to breathe. Even 2psi is tough- just try

    • A suit that can be warn for longer, but you'd have to go back inside to take breaks for biological reasons should make the suit cheaper and much more maneuverable.

      Nothing is fast in space. I'm sure you would use up much more time in ingress/egress than you would ever save.

      Of course, then there's the obvious failsafe scenario... if your suit can keep you alive for 24 hours instead of, say, 2 and some emergency forces you to need that extra support, it's there.

      On the other hand, the lighted heating/cooling l

    • by cusco (717999)

      If you're supplying breathing air for the astronaut the suit is going to inflate, unless you want to put an airtight seal around their neck (don't think that would be too popular) you're not going to keep the air from the rest of the suit. An inflated suit also allows easier breathing by its wearer, they don't have to fight to deflate the lungs.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        If you're supplying breathing air for the astronaut the suit is going to inflate, unless you want to put an airtight seal around their neck

        Which is exactly what a skin suit is designed to do. It's more like a leotard with a helmet than an Apollo or Shuttle space suit.

        • by cusco (717999)

          Two questions then; 1) How do you avoid choking your wearer if the seal is tight enough to keep air out of the suit? 2) Is the suit going to assist the astronaut to deflate their lungs after each breath? If not, how are you preventing fatigue?

          • by AK Marc (707885)
            Have you ever worn a dry suit? It has a neck ring designed to keep 1000 psi (guessed number) of water out of the suit. It's not deadly tight.
            You don't need to "force" the air out of your lungs. The suit, providing ~15 psi of compression, would give you an Earth-like breathing experience (where pressure is effectively equal inside and outside the lungs).
            • by cusco (717999)

              No, haven't worn a dry suit. The reason that I asked about breathing is because your lungs would be at a higher pressure than the vacuum surrounding you. This isn't a pressure while diving, since the pressure supplied by the breathing equipment equalizes with the water pressure. In a typical pressure suit the pressure in the lungs equals that inside the suit. The AC above mentioned solutions in development.

              • by AK Marc (707885)

                The reason that I asked about breathing is because your lungs would be at a higher pressure than the vacuum surrounding you.

                If the pressure suit presses on you at 15 psi, then your lungs will be pressure-equal, in and out (presuming the air feed is pressurized to 15 psi). Likely, though, you'd be pressurized to something about 5 psi of pure O2, no need to ship the N2 up to space. O2 requirements are based on the partial pressure, so lower total pressure and higher concentration would solve all the problems.

  • Said the military contractor to the gullible public.

  • They basically had incredibly thin flexible suits which were sprayed on most of the body and dissolved chemically off of them afterwards.

    Most of the body just needs pressure containment and protection from exposure.
    You could put on a non pressurized heat protective layer on top of the pressure layer of the suit.

    I think we have the fabrics to do this now- just not spray / dissolve.

    But much simpler suits- not more complicated. Separate the heat/cold protection from the pressure layer. Two or more piece/laye

  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Monday December 16, 2013 @10:07PM (#45710595)

    There's a much lighter, working space suit design that's been available for years, and has been repeatedly redesigned. It's called a "skin suit". Essentially a wetsuit with a helmet, the suit relies on the astronaut's own skin as part of its structure holding in the astronaut's body fluids. Air, or oxygen, released into the helmet passes down the suits structure and through the astronaut, themselves, and slowly leaks out the slightly porous material. This avoids the mechanical pressurizaiton problems of providing air at enough pressure to breathe, but dealing with the pressure throughout the enite surace of the suit. It also providing critical cooling for most space suit use. It does consume air or oxygen in use, but the mass lost in days of use is quite modest compared to the mass, difficulty of use, complexity, and mechanical fragility of the heavy and overbuilt modern space suits.

    An example can be seen at http://spaceindustrynews.com/mits-next-mars-space-suit/ [spaceindustrynews.com], The technology has worked since the 1960's, when Paul Webb originally designed it.

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