Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, January 30, 2023

New-Age Spacesuit Developed for Mars Exploration 

From box-office hits to television gold like Star Trek, the actors in these films and shows have donned eye-opening spacesuits. The fashion predictions have been entirely off thus far and none have managed to predict what Dava Newman is currently designing for future space explorers.

From box-office hits to television gold like Star Trek, the actors in these films and shows have donned eye-opening spacesuits. The fashion predictions have been entirely off thus far and none have managed to predict what Dava Newman is currently designing for future space explorers.

Newman, a professor at MIT, has designed brand new apparel for the explorers that will eventually set foot on Mars. Known as the “BioSuit,” Newman’s creation includes a unique design that will make the wearer look almost superhuman.

The conditions on Mars are far more extreme and challenging than those on the moon and to succeed in exploring the red planet, changes must be made to current space gear.

Human bodies need pressure in order to survive in space and the BioSuit provides just that. By using semi-rigid ribs, the suit gives the user the appropriate amount of mechanical counterpressure so that their body is protected without restricting movement.

“Aesthetics are a critical component of design and engineering,” says Newman. “I still think space exploration is the most exciting thing going on, and heroic-looking suits might help make more of a human connection for folks.”

The ribbing is threaded throughout the suit and requires over 140,000 stitches to keep it in place. In addition, gold fibers and biometric sensors are also woven into the outfit to provide mission control with intelligence on the crew.

Newman’s BioSuit has utilized 3D tools in the form of scanners and 3D printers so that design teams can make gear that fits the wearer perfectly. 

“Custom-designed individual suits are critical in my opinion since we want to facilitate extreme exploration,” says Newman. “And the best way I know how to improve performance is to provide astronaut explorers with maximum mobility while requiring the least amount of energy expenditure.”

Newman gives Dr. Arthur S. Iberall and a textbook from 1882 called Lehrbuch der systematischen und topographischen Anatomie credit for helping her with the design. Iberall came up with a similar idea back in the 1960s and the textbook provided her with the math that she needed to make the suit’s exoskeleton.

A group of astronauts, including Buzz Aldrin, are part of a focus group that intends to give feedback on the BioSuit. While testing has been conducted on the suit, it has yet to be sent into space.

In addition to the suits’ otherworldly applications, the technology will also bring benefits much closer to home. Some of the innovations are being used to help children with cerebral palsy and seniors with balance impediments. 

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