Three models of NASA's Z-2 suit unveiled to the public in March 2014 for people to vote on their favorite design. From left, "Biomimicry", "Technology" and "Trends In Society." Click for a larger version. Credit: NASA (Photo combination: Elizabeth Howell)
There are three options (which you can see above), and NASA promises the winning design will be used in pool training at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, the Johnson Space Center “rockyard” to simulate Mars exploration, and in vacuum tests. Outer space is not an option because of “micrometeorite, thermal and radiation protection” considerations, however.
In NASA’s words, here’s a quick summary of the prototypes:
Biomimicry: The “Biomimicry” design draws from an environment with many parallels to the harshness of space: the world’s oceans. Mirroring the bioluminescent qualities of aquatic creatures found at incredible depths, and the scaly skin of fish and reptiles found across the globe, this design reflects the qualities that protect some of Earth’s toughest creatures.
Technology: “Technology” pays homage to spacesuit achievements of the past while incorporating subtle elements of the future. By using Luminex wire and light-emitting patches, this design puts a new spin on spacewalking standards such as ways to identify crew members.
Trends In Society: “Trends in Society” is based off of just that: being reflective of what every day clothes may look like in the not too distant future. This suit uses electroluminescent wire and a bright color scheme to mimic the appearance of sportswear and the emerging world of wearable technologies.
The Z-2 includes several improvements over its Z-1 predecessor, which won an invention award from Time magazine in 2012. These include a “hard composite” upper torso that is intended to be more durable, better shoulder and hip joints, and boots that would be more useful on a planet.
By Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.