Cambridge (MA) – Traditional space suits are big, bulky and quite frankly not very sexy, but that could change if Dava Newman has her way. The professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been developing a skintight suit that could one day withstand the harsh environment of space and possibly Mars.
Newman’s “BioSuit” suit uses bands of spandex and nylon that provide a sufficiently stiff external skeleton. The suit’s resistance can be adjusted to give muscles a workout in space. Astronauts typically lose muscle mass in space because of the zero-gravity environment. In addition to being less bulky, the BioSuit would be drastically lighter than the 200 to 300 pound suits that are worn by modern astronauts.
It will be at least ten years before the suit will be ready for prime time because Newman has to make the suit stronger to accept higher pressures necessary for a the complete vacuum of space. She says a hybrid suit, one combining materials from traditional space suits and her BioSuit, could be ready in time for a manned trip to Mars.