Rhode Island School of Design works with NASA on Mars suit
Better, more agile suits a requirement for Mars mission
When scientists are trying to figure out how to live in near-isolation in a dome to simulate a Mars mission, the last thing they’ll need is an ill-fitting space suit - so one of the nation’s top design schools has come to the rescue. Staff members and students at the Rhode Island School of Design have come up with a new, adjustable suit that closely resembles an actual space suit.
Real space suits are designed to work in zero gravity, meaning they’re too expensive and too heavy to use at the NASA-funded Mars simulation mission in Hawaii. The simulated space suits that are used instead wear out quickly and aren’t all that comfortable. They’re small and provide poor ventilation. The new suit, unveiled Monday in Providence, is expected to be tested during the next Mars simulation mission in 2017 in Hawaii. A yearlong Mars simulation mission ended in August. It was the fourth HI-SEAS, or Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation. NASA funded the study, run through the University of Hawaii. Andrzej Stewart was the chief engineering officer on that mission. At 6 feet 2, Stewart couldn’t zip up the simulated suits, so he wore a hazmat suit instead, which he said was easy to wear but not very realistic.
The entire crew saw a need for a better suit, said Sheyna Gifford, the mission’s space doctor. A realistic suit is important, so crew members can see what experiments they can do and what tools they can use while wearing it, and how the habitat should be designed to accommodate it, she said. “What we’re aiming for is the best possible simulation, to inform NASA about what we learned on that simulation so they can succeed in the real thing,” she said.
PROVIDENCE: In this Monday, Dec 5, 2016 photo, Andrzej Stewart, the chief engineering officer on a year-long Mars simulation mission that ended in August, puts on a new space suit at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). — AP