America’s return to the moon could be delayed because NASA doesn’t have a new spacesuit

0
16
NASA


Experts have warned that America’s return to the moon could be delayed because astronauts have nothing to wear.

NASA is still using decades old suits that critics say are too bulky and difficult to move in.

While both Boeing and SpaceX are developing suits for astronauts to wear on their trips into orbit, NASA has been warned that its lack of suitable suits could cause problems for plans to return to the lunar surface.

Scroll down for video   

NASA's current EMU (operational spacesuit on ISS) is pictured above on the left, the PXS (advanced prototype) is in the middle and the Z2 (advanced prototype) that could be used to walk on Mars is on the right

NASA’s current EMU (operational spacesuit on ISS) is pictured above on the left, the PXS (advanced prototype) is in the middle and the Z2 (advanced prototype) that could be used to walk on Mars is on the right

WHEN WILL NASA NEED A NEW SPACESUIT? 

Delays in developing a new space suit could become a crisis as early as 2024, when the Trump administration wants to retire the International Space Station.

NASA’s moon-orbiting Lunar Gateway station should still be under construction in 2024, making it almost impossible to test new designs.

Realistically, the agency has between now and 2024 to design, build and test new space suits. 

There’s ‘little margin for delays,’ a recent NASA audit warned.

 

‘It’s a serious issue,’ Pablo de León, a space suit-designer and professor at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, told The Daily Beast.

He said that, in addition to being lighter, more flexible and easier to put on and take off, a new suit should be pressurized to eight pounds-per-square-inch in order to shorten the pre-breathing time. 

The space agency should have addressed these problems decades ago but didn’t, de León said. 

‘A new program to develop a new suit is something should have been done in early ’90s.’

While riding in Russian Soyuz capsules to the International Space Station, astronauts wear Russian Sokol flightsuits, replacing the orange suits worn aboard the Space Shuttle.

Boeing and SpaceX have both designed their own, unique flightsuits for passengers aboard spacecraft they’re developing to send astronauts to the International Space Station.

For spacewalks—extravehicular activity or EVA, astronauts need suits that provides pressure and breathable air and protection from radiation.  

NASA keeps Shuttle-era Extravehicular Mobility Unit EVA suits that the agency first designed in the mid-1970s onboard the ISS, while Russian crew on the station have their own, equally-aged Orlan EVA suits for spacewalks.

However, a 2017 audit warned NASA was unprepared for future mission.  

NASA’S EXTRAVEHICULAR SUITS 

Scott Parazynski works outside the International Space Station during the third spacewalk of the STS-120 mission  30 October 2007.

Scott Parazynski works outside the International Space Station during the third spacewalk of the STS-120 mission  30 October 2007.

Scott Parazynski works outside the International Space Station during the third spacewalk of the STS-120 mission 30 October 2007.

The agency’s current EVA suit is a 275-pound monstrosity with 14 layers. 

It comes in only three sizes: medium, large and extra-large. 

NASA built 18 Extravehicular Mobility Unit EVA suits for the Shuttle program. 

As of 2017, just 11 of the suits were still operational, according to the NASA audit. 

Several suits were destroyed in the crashes of the Shuttles Challenger and Columbia.

The space suit, called the Extravehicular Mobility Unit or EMU, uses 100 percent oxygen instead of air. 

When a crewmember does a spacewalk, the suit is pressurized to about 1/3 of atmospheric pressure.  

Each EMU has two oxygen tanks (similar to scuba diving tanks) that work with a carbon dioxide removal system to allow a 6 to 8.5 hour spacewalk. 

The life support system holds other things that get consumed during a spacewalk as well. These include a battery and cooling water. These too allow a 6 to 8.5 hour spacewalk. 

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson (C) posing with Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA (L) and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency, R) prior to their spacewalk, in space, 24 March 2017

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson (C) posing with Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA (L) and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency, R) prior to their spacewalk, in space, 24 March 2017

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson (C) posing with Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA (L) and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency, R) prior to their spacewalk, in space, 24 March 2017

The EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit) has a drink bag which velcros to the front interior of the suit. 

Overlapping efforts in recent years to replace the EVA suits burned through $200 million without producing operational space suits, the audit found. 

Poor fit raises the risk of shoulder injuries, according to the NASA audit. 

To prepare for the suit’s 4.3-pounds-per-square-inch internal pressure and pure-oxygen air supply, a wearer must spend as long as four hours ‘pre-breathing’ and slowly adjusting to the suit’s conditions.

 

Delays in developing a new space suit could become a crisis as early as 2024, when the Trump administration wants to retire the International Space Station.

NASA’s moon-orbiting Lunar Gateway station should still be under construction in 2024, making it almost impossible to test new designs.

Realistically, the agency has between now and 2024 to design, build and test new space suits. 

There’s ‘little margin for delays,’ a recent NASA audit warned.

NASA plans to launch Exploration Mission 1, the first test of Orion and its heavy rocket, as early as 2020. 

The Lunar Gateway station could be ready for use five or six years later.

Astronaut Ed White, pilot for the Gemini-Titan 4 (GT-4) spaceflight, floats in the zero-gravity of space during the third revolution of the GT-4 spacecraft. His face is covered by a shaded visor to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun. He remained outside the spacecraft for 21 minutes during the third revolution of the Gemini 4 mission. In his right hand, he carries a Hand-Held Self-Maneuvering Unit (HHSMU) with which he controlled his movements while in space. He was attached to the spacecraft by a 25-feet umbilical line and a 23-feet tether line, both wrapped together with gold tape to form one cord. He also wears an emergency oxygen supply chest pack..jpg

Astronaut Ed White, pilot for the Gemini-Titan 4 (GT-4) spaceflight, floats in the zero-gravity of space during the third revolution of the GT-4 spacecraft. His face is covered by a shaded visor to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun. He remained outside the spacecraft for 21 minutes during the third revolution of the Gemini 4 mission. In his right hand, he carries a Hand-Held Self-Maneuvering Unit (HHSMU) with which he controlled his movements while in space. He was attached to the spacecraft by a 25-feet umbilical line and a 23-feet tether line, both wrapped together with gold tape to form one cord. He also wears an emergency oxygen supply chest pack..jpg

Astronaut Ed White, pilot for the Gemini-Titan 4 (GT-4) spaceflight, floats in the zero-gravity of space during the third revolution of the GT-4 spacecraft. His face is covered by a shaded visor to protect him from the unfiltered rays of the sun. He remained outside the spacecraft for 21 minutes during the third revolution of the Gemini 4 mission. In his right hand, he carries a Hand-Held Self-Maneuvering Unit (HHSMU) with which he controlled his movements while in space. He was attached to the spacecraft by a 25-feet umbilical line and a 23-feet tether line, both wrapped together with gold tape to form one cord. He also wears an emergency oxygen supply chest pack..jpg

Despite these looming deadlines, NASA ‘remains years away from having a flight-ready space suit… suitable for use on future exploration missions,’ the agency’s inspector general warned in a 2017 audit.    

For trips to the red planet, NASA is currently developing a radical new ‘Tron’ spacesuit to send the first astronauts to Mars.

3D printed for each astronaut, the new suit, called Z-2, will allow astronauts to walk on the Martian surface far more easily.

Unlike the figure hugging suit worn by Matt Damon in the hit film the Martian, it will allow astronauts to exit through the suit’s rear – without having to go into an airlock.  

The Z-2 will offer Mars-walkers ‘maximum astronaut productivity on a planetary surface,’ NASA says.

‘Nasa is developing the next generation of suit technologies that will enable deep space exploration by incorporating advancements such as regenerable carbon dioxide removal systems and water evaporation systems that more efficiently provide crew members with core necessities such as breathing air and temperature regulation,’ the space agency said.

Unlike the figure hugging suit worn by Matt Damon in the hit film the Martian, Nasa’s Z-2 will allow astronauts to exit through the suit’s rear – without having to go into an airlock.

‘The Z-2 suit is a technology demonstrator for a planetary surface suit; the suit is designed for maximum astronaut productivity on a planetary surface – exploring, collecting samples, and maneuvering in and out of habitats and rovers. 

‘The Z-2 uses advanced composites to achieve a light-weight, high-durability suit that can withstand long-duration missions in the harsh environments found on Mars. 

‘Adjustable shoulder and waist sizing features maximize the range of crewmember sizes who can fit into any single suit.’

Nasa also revealed two other suit designs. 

‘Mobility and fit of a pressurized suit are extremely important in keeping astronauts productive, so NASA is focusing on space suit designs to help crews work more efficiently and safely during spacewalks. NASA is evaluating pressurizable space suits for missions to a variety of exploration destinations.

The new suit designs are very different from the figure hugging version worn by Matt Damon in the film The Martian.

The new suit designs are very different from the figure hugging version worn by Matt Damon in the film The Martian.

The new suit designs are very different from the figure hugging version worn by Matt Damon in the film The Martian.

'The Z-2 suit is a technology demonstrator for a planetary surface suit - and has adjustable boots opened by a clasp rather that heavy 'moon boots'

'The Z-2 suit is a technology demonstrator for a planetary surface suit - and has adjustable boots opened by a clasp rather that heavy 'moon boots'

‘The Z-2 suit is a technology demonstrator for a planetary surface suit – and has adjustable boots opened by a clasp rather that heavy ‘moon boots’

‘The PXS suit is a technology demonstrator focused on improving suit fit and performance while minimizing the amount of equipment required for long-duration missions to low-Earth orbit and beyond. 

‘The PXS uses a novel approach incorporating sizing features that could one day be 3-D printed on-orbit, in transit, or on Mars to achieve a customized fit for any crew member or change the orientation of bearings to optimize EVA mobility for different mission phases.’

Astronauts will crawl into the Z-series suits from the back, through a hatch that could even be built into landing modules, meaning there would be no need for a traditional airlock.

Suitports are an alternative to airlocks, potentially allowing astronauts to enter and exit habitat modules, rovers and other structures quickly and easily without bringing dust and other contaminants inside.

‘They’re going to be suitport-compatible,’ he said.

The Z-series suits are designed to allow astronauts far more flexibility than current designs used on the International Space Station.

‘We’re trying to design [the new suit] to accommodate both improved microgravity EVA [extravehicular activity] capability as well as surface capability, NASA spacesuit engineer Amy Ross said in a video released by the space agency.

The suit was inspired by the glowing suits from the sci-fi hit film series Tron

The suit was inspired by the glowing suits from the sci-fi hit film series Tron

The suit was inspired by the glowing suits from the sci-fi hit film series Tron

The design was chosen for the next generation spacesuits by a public vote – and a sci-fi inspired ‘Tron’ design won.

Each iteration of the suit will test new technologies that one day will be used in a suit worn by the first humans to step foot on the Red Planet.

With 233,431 votes, the ‘Technology’ option has won NASA’s Z-2 Spacesuit design challenge with just over 63% of the total vote.

Nasa’s Z-2 is the latest prototype in the agency’s Z range of spacesuits, and will be the successor to the its green and white Z-1 model unveiled in 2012.

The Technology suit, the eventual winner, ‘pays homage to spacesuit achievements of the past while incorporating subtle elements of the future’.

3D printed for each astronaut, the new suit, called Z-2, will allow astronauts to walk on the Martian surface far more easily.

It is fitted with Luminex wire, and patches that emit light to make it easier to identify crew members during spacewalks, for examples.

These patches are fitted to the upper and lower torso, alongside collapsing pleats that make movement easier.

It also has abrasion resistant panels on the lower torso.

The public was given a choice of three designs.

This design now will be incorporated into the final version of the suit, which is expected to be ready for testing by November 2014.

The Biomimicry suit was inspired by the ocean and has been designed to mirror ‘the bioluminescent qualities of aquatic creatures found at incredible depths, and the scaly skin of fish and reptiles found across the globe.’

Nasa said the design reflects the qualities that protect some of ‘Earth’s toughest creatures’, and specifically includes segmented pleats at the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee.

It also features electroluminescent wire across the upper torso, which lights up in the dark.

Meanwhile, the Trends in Society suit is ‘reflective of what every day clothes may look like in the not too distant future.’

It uses electroluminescent wire and a bright colour scheme to mimic the look of sportswear and wearable tech.

The design includes pleats with contrast stitching, plus electroluminescent wire and patches of varying styles across both the upper and lower torso.

The Z-2 will be made using 3D printed parts, while 3D human laser scans will be used to accurately size each suit to individual astronauts.

In a blog post, Nasa said: ‘As spacesuit engineers, [we] have found ourselves with an exciting opportunity: the chance to make a suit with a look unlike any suit ever built before.

‘The designs were created with the intent to protect the suit and to highlight certain mobility features to aid suit testing.

‘To take it a step further, we are leaving it up you, the public, to choose which of three candidates will be built.’ 

Nasa will now put the winning design into production before running it through tests at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston.

Technically, the Z-2 will be built to withstand and absorb impact, especially on the upper and lower torso.

Despite claims it looked like a toy suit, Nasa’s Z-1 suit was named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2012.

‘After the positive response to the Z-1 suit’s visual design we received, we wanted to take the opportunity to provide this new suit with an equally memorable appearance,’ continued Nasa.

‘The cover layer of a prototype suit is important as it serves to protect the suit against abrasion and snags during the rigors of testing.

‘With the Z-2, we’re looking forward to employing cover layer design elements never used in a spacesuit before. ‘

The designs were produced in collaboration with suit vendor ILC, and Philadelphia University.





Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here