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These are the futuristic (and hot) space suits astronauts could wear on Mars

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One of the standout talks from the inspiring TED Women on Thursday was from rocket scientist and MIT aeronautics professor Dava Newman. She showed off prototypes of three different space suits that she’d helped designed for future space missions, and particularly for astronauts one day on Mars.

Newman described space suits as “the world’s smallest space craft,” and showed off a video clip of a fumbling astronaut many decades ago on the Moon wearing a bulky traditional space suit. In contrast Newman’s designs are streamlined, body-hugging and provide the astronaut with mobility and flexibility.

Image courtesy of TED Women
Image courtesy of TED Women

The suit pictured above is a prototype of a suit that provides the needed pressurized atmosphere to walk around the Mars environment. Using plastic and elastic material can provide part of the atmosphere, said Newman, but to add the full amount of atmosphere, and also keep the flexibility of the suit, they used something called muscle wires, or active materials, made of nickel titanium. In the picture above Newman is going through the motion of adding the remaining needed atmosphere by dialing valves on the elbows.

Image courtesy of TED Women
Image courtesy of TED Women

The two other suits that Newman showed off aren’t meant to be used outside on Mars in the environment, but inside the space ship. One is an exercise suit that, just by wearing it, works the muscles on the astronauts’ bodies. Astronauts can lose 40 percent of their muscle strength on a many year long mission, so this type of suit could help astronauts maintain their strength. Newman said that this type of exercise suit could also be used for people with muscular disabilities to maintain strength.

Image courtesy of TED Women
Image courtesy of TED Women

The third suit that Newman talked about is meant to be worn inside one of the bigger outside bulky suits. These older suits have caused a lot of problems with astronauts’ shoulders, and have led to surgeries after long missions. The inside suit would provide protection and support to the needed areas that have been vulnerable inside the traditional suit.

Newman said her dream is “to invent the world’s coolest space suits for Mars.” If astronauts do reach the planet, looks like they’ll have some hot new threads to don upon arrival.

5 Responses to “These are the futuristic (and hot) space suits astronauts could wear on Mars”

  1. Common Sense

    These seem more an exercise in stylistic design–prototype might be a stretch. The first pictured (white) “spacesuit” everybody digs is a set of modified Dianese women’s motorcycle racing leathers. They’re Italian so yea, they’ve got style.

    @Dominic, you can wear these in the snow now.

    • Common Sense, You are totally right. Prototype is a big stretch, as there are no active constricting mechanisms on this suit. The gloves and boots are for motocross! And the muscle wire she is proposing does not have nearly the shape change properties necessary for the constriction required for mechanical counter pressure.