High Space Fashion: Martian spacesuit

In February, the Barack Obama administration made a radical decision to wind down NASA’s moon exploration strategy program. Politicians felt that private companies were quite capable of dealing with this. The new US targets in space were named Mars and asteroids. It is clear that the Americans will not succeed in rushing there in the next decade - technology has not yet been created for such a journey. But when this happens, the astronauts will not only have to make excursions to the Martian sights, but stick in their sweat. Apollo moon walks in comparison with new missions will seem astronauts childish fun. Construction and intensive exploration at an early stage in the exploration of Mars will literally require heavy manual labor. Even if NASA will use android robots like Robonaut2 in space hard labor, foremen with a human face on the Red Planet will still be needed. And Mars will meet the pioneers by clothes.

Vintage is not trending

The most expensive costume in the history of mankind is a space suit. $ 20 million apiece is no joke. In fact, it is an individual spacecraft with all systems and equipment and is almost as complex. And all because man - the king of nature - is a completely defenseless creature. We can only exist normally at room temperature, atmospheric pressure drops force us to swallow tablets, and the slightest oxygen deficiency in the surrounding air leads to fainting. What can we say about the super-harsh conditions of outer space or other planets.

Don't be fooled by the outward frivolity of the tight-fitting BioSuit. This is not a glamorous pseudo-high tech. Davy Newman's elegant jumpsuit is a bunch of breakthrough ideas in the fields of nanotechnology, textile industry and metallurgy. Not in vain in 2007 BioSuit was included in the list of 100 most significant inventions of mankind, compiled by The Time Magazine.

Currently, there are two types of protective space clothing - home and weekend. During the transition phases of flights - takeoff, landing and maneuvering - astronauts flaunt in sealed ACES rescue suits (Advanced Crew Escape Suit), made of several layers of fabric and equipped with a face mask, a liquid cooling system, a set of survival tools, an emergency oxygen system and a parachute. Cotton-based materials are used for the lower layers, and nylon of various textures with neoprene and urethane impregnation is used for the outer layers. Approximately the same overalls, but simpler and from nomex are pilots of supersonic fighters.

At the exit you have to dress more seriously. For work in outer space, the EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit) complex is used, which creates a thin but very reliable shell of life around a person. Rigid EMU saves from micrometeorites, solar radiation, cooling, overheating, and also provides stable internal pressure, ventilation and communication. In it, you can perform simple movements, but there is no need to talk about complex motor activity. Just recall how Apollo astronauts traveled the moon. What kind of lunar or Martian construction can be discussed, if it was a huge problem for an astronaut dressed as a cabbage to pick up a hammer that fell out of clumsy gloves! It is impossible to put on a 140-pound EMU alone - the process of vesting and checking on-board systems takes about three hours.

Fast to the stars: Chinese space fleet

Obviously, such a clumsy sheepskin coat is not suitable for new missions. NASA considers this problem no less important than, for example, the development of a launch vehicle. The price of the issue is half a billion dollars. America's official space couturier is Terry Hill, a project manager for the design of the Constellation spacesuit from the Johnson Space Center.

Court couturier

Despite the death sentence imposed on the lunar program, work on the Constellation Space Suit System (CSSS) spacesuit will be completed. NASA set the Hill team very tough tasks, the main of which were the modularity and universality of the spacesuit, the autonomous provision of normal human life in outer space under high physical exertion for 150 hours, the possibility of individual dressing and increased mobility.

The wardrobe of the astronauts of the future, according to NASA, will consist of a single set of clothes with a bunch of additional accessories. It is supposed to create two spacesuit configurations - light and extreme. In March 2009, the development of a lightweight suit for transitional phases of flight and emergency operations in outer space was entrusted to the technology company Oceaneering from Houston, specializing in the manufacture of protective ammunition for deep sea operations.


Pascals are worth its weight in gold

The rigidity of a traditional spacesuit is an essential safety condition: accidental damage to the outer shell and loss of pressure can lead to instant death of the astronaut. The pressure on the surface of Mars is 0.6 kPa or less than 1% of the Earth's (100 kPa), and inside the spacesuit it should be, according to Dave Newman, about 30 kPa. This allows a person to work outside the base station for more than 8 hours without negative health effects. In addition, with such a pressure difference, astronauts will not need decompression when they return home. For example, now after any exit from the ISS into outer space, the astronaut waits 4 hours until the pressures in the station’s room and inside the spacesuit equalize. Only then can the helmet be depressurized.

The Constellation spacesuit will use the traditional barometric method of maintaining pressure - a gas mixture is pumped into the lower layer, and rigid plastic inserts will be installed in the areas of the elbow, shoulder and knee joints. The astronaut’s body temperature will be maintained by a multilayer screen-vacuum thermal insulation, first applied back in the mid-1960s on the Soviet Golden Eagle spacesuit. In fact, the astronaut will be enclosed in a kind of sealed thermos with minimal thermal conductivity. But while designers at Golden Eagle used heavy metallic fabric, then for CSSS David Clark specialists intend to develop special types of lightweight breathable nylon with adjustable one-sided permeability. Nothing human is alien to astronauts, including normal digestion. CSSS will be equipped with a compact sewage system for the disposal of waste products.

Compact telemetry equipment and communication systems integrated into the helmet will provide constant communication with the Earth and, in the event of an emergency exit into outer space, with a base station. An emergency respiratory system will be used if necessary. Putting on a light spacesuit is not a problem, for this you need to literally step inside through a long vertical zipper on the back, which can be fastened without standing up to the mirror. The limited autonomy of CSSS provides a phased support system for work in outer space.

The heavy CSSS configuration will be the daily work clothes of astronauts. The base part of the costume will remain the same, but it will be supplemented by a light and durable composite shell for the torso with the oxygen supply, battery and tools in it. It will not be difficult to throw this chain mail over yourself - it is worn like a surgeon’s robe on the back and fastens on the back with an automatic clasp. The final touch is a thin but very durable jumpsuit for protection against micrometeorites and dust.

According to Dan Barry, vice president of David Clark, an experimental prototype of the Constellation modular spacesuit with a curb weight of not more than 50 kg will appear in September 2010. But while CSSS is just a concept, to implement it requires new materials, technologies and time.

Anatomical avant-garde

Terry Hill has independent competitors with a completely different outlook on fashion. The creation of alternative conceptual suits is carried out by several groups of scientists. The development of the moon by private companies gives them a great chance to be on the starry podium. The most radical and promising project of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Davey Newman and her colleague, the famous astronaut, Professor Jeffrey Hoffman. Their BioSuit can already be felt with your hands and even try on.

Unlike classical spacesuit concepts, in which the optimum pressure is maintained barometrically by pumping a gas mixture, in BioSuit the human body is mechanically compressed due to the elasticity of the material. NASA back in 1971 made an attempt to develop a space suit with a mechanical compression Space Activity Suit, but the work got up due to the lack of necessary tissues. And the idea was very tempting - instead of a bulky inflatable case that fetters movement, get a flexible and lightweight tracksuit in which you can play football on the moon.

Newman's colleague, Jeffrey Hoffman, knows about the dubious charms of a hard spacesuit firsthand, as he made five flights on Shuttle space shuttles with a total duration of 50 days, of which 25 hours he spent in open space. According to him, even the simplest manipulations of an astronaut dressed in an EMU turn into hard work. Together with specialists from the Soldier Nanotechnologies institute laboratory, which creates materials and technologies for the manufacture of military equipment of the 21st century, the design agency Trotti & Associates and the famous manufacturer of sports protection Dainese from Molven, Newman and Hoffman challenged the Constellation project.

Lightweight suit consists of five layers. The lowest is a sealed neoprene chamber that holds pressure. The top layer is made of Nomex refractory fabric in orange. The spacesuit will receive new bearings on the wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees and hips, as well as a helmet with a moving visor.

To begin with, physicist Chris Carr studied in detail the biomechanics of human movements under the conditions of Martian gravity, which is only 38% of the earth's. It turned out that from the point of view of energy efficiency, the best technique for moving around Mars is running. But you can’t get far in the current EMU - the motionless fixation of the feet and stiff knees only allow you to make kangaroo-style jumps. This is how Apollo mission members rode the moon.

To provide mechanical compression, a soft suit is not enough just to be tight-fitting - it should not give creases when bending the limbs and, in fact, be the second skin! Even the cutters of the best fashion houses are not able to make anything like this from ordinary fabric. Spandex with various properties came to the aid of developers.

In the Soldier Nanotechnologies laboratory, MIT engineers developed a 3D laser scanning technique for the human body, which allows us to calculate the most accurate mathematical model of deformation of the skin during movements and to reveal a network of so-called constant lines. In other words, make accurate digital patterns after a single fitting. No bubbles on the knees and wrinkles! Moreover, individual layers of a spacesuit can literally be drawn directly on the astronaut using the technology of sputtering microfibers and liquid polymers.

A heavy spacesuit will receive arms, legs, shoe mounts and a helmet from a lightweight configuration. The new hinged system of the hard shell will allow the astronaut to bend and pick up objects from the ground. The pressure inside the spacesuit will be increased compared to its predecessors, so that astronauts will suffer less from decompression.

For the suit to sit

To date, the Newman and Hoffman group has already made several prototypes of space jumpsuits. For convenience, they are all sewn by the hands of Dainese designers by the standards of Davey Newman, since the professor of aeronautics has an excellent figure. In the design of the thin and at the same time multi-layer BioSuit, the developers tested a number of technologies and materials, which until recently were described in science fiction novels.

The optimal pressure inside the suit will be achieved through the use of an external electric exoskeleton from an alloy tape with shape memory - metal muscle fibers. Fine-tuning the compression level in individual areas of the BioSuit will provide an electronic control system. The rupture of the suit will no longer lead to death, since pressure loss will occur only in a small area of ​​the body. Minor repairs of BioSuit can be easily done in the field, simply applying a tightening bandage to the gap. The inner quilted layer with a thermoset gel filler will allow the removal of excess heat and moisture, and water vapor will not accumulate in the drainage system, but will be immediately released thanks to the unilateral permeability of all BioSuit layers. A double layer of metallized spandex with a foam and gel thermal insulator protects the astronaut from changes in external temperature, reaching on Mars 100 and more degrees Celsius.

At first glance, the process of dressing in such a tight-fitting jumpsuit should be no less difficult than a three-hour collective donning of EMU, but this is not so. BioSuit is pulled onto the body in just a minute thanks to a well-thought-out system of zippers and electro-tightening. At zero voltage, the metal tape takes on its initial stretched configuration, and after the astronaut has connected the power supply, it is compressed to a complete fit. The Martian’s equipment is supplemented by semi-rigid protective elements made of composites, a torso shell with containers for the life support system, shoes, gloves and a helmet.

From Hi-Tec to Haute Couture

BioSuit is still a long way off, but Newman and Hoffman are confident of its success. Even if the final look of the spacesuit of the future turns out to be different, the principles of elasticity and lightness will remain basic to it. Collateral results of the work of MIT scientists can not only have a huge impact on the technology of prosthetics and the manufacture of compensating clothing for the elderly and patients, but also turn the fashion around. Household water filters, contact lenses, neoprene materials for shoes, cordless tools, smoke detectors, heat-saving clothes and shoes, and thousands more various useful things - all this was invented during space research. So why now scientists don’t wave to haute couture?

The article was published in the journal Popular Mechanics (No. 4, April 2010). I wonder how a nuclear reactor works and can robots build a house?

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