What will the well-dressed astronaut be wearing on Mars? It could be the Z-series, NASA’s next generation of spacesuit, reports Space.com.
“We are heading for Mars; that’s what is the end goal right now for the suit,” said Phil Stampinato of ILC Dover, the Delaware-based company that won NASA contracts to design and build the prototypes of the new spacesuit.
The suits used by crew members on the International Space Station are well designed for working in zero gravity high above the Earth. But it would be too bulky and heavy to be comfortably worn by humans on the Red Planet.
“It’s a very, very poor walking suit,” said NASA spacesuit engineer Amy Ross.
The Z-series suits are designed to be more flexible and to accommodate a wider range of astronaut movement.
New bearings in the Z-1’s shoulders, waist, hips, legs and ankles let an astronaut move more easily
The current spacesuit requires astronauts to put on the upper and lower pieces separately then seal them together at the waste. But astronauts will crawl into the Z-series suits through a hatch connected to the back of the suit.
“We think it’s less prone to (cause) injury, especially shoulder injury,” Ross said of the new entry design. “And then also, it provides support for some other exploration technology, like a suitport.”
Suitports would be an alternative to airlocks. They could allow crew members to enter and exit habitats, rovers and other space gear quickly and easily without risking exposure to dust and other contaminants.
NASA has committed itself to a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.
A version of this story appears in CBS Tampa