December 20, 2015

"The spacesuits astronauts will wear while exploring the surface of Mars will protect the person inside, supply air and water, and be flexible enough that astronauts can dig samples and do the other tasks required."

NASA Those are big jobs for a device that sounds like something someone might pick out of a closet and zip on like a heavy parka. That's why engineers from the University of North Dakota who are evaluating their suit design at Kennedy would really prefer a different term. By Steven Siceloff

'"Suit is really kind of a misnomer," said Pablo De Leon, the researcher leading this week's evaluations. "Containing a human being into anything is very complex, so we have a spacesuit which is really a miniaturized spacecraft, and it has to be built in a way that is mobile, fairly comfortable and lets you work. It's really much more of a machine."

'The prototype De Leon and his team are analyzing is called the NDX-1. The suit is good for trying different technologies but is not necessarily a product that would work as-is on another world. That's why researchers are taking deliberate and innovative steps to test carefully to show different possibilities. During the suit performance tests, the team also will evaluate self-developed surface sampling tools that were based on Apollo-era designs.

'NASA’s Johnson Space Center designed and built two spacesuit prototypes, known as the Prototype Exploration Suite (PXS), for use in low- and zero-gravity, and the Z-2, which is testing mobility technology for surface exploration of Mars. NASA’s prototype suits focus on technology demonstrations for a planetary surface suit, improving suit fit and performance, and upgrades to the life support systems while minimizing the amount of equipment required to keep the suit operational.'

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