NASA and Boeing introduce new spacesuits that are more comfortable for astronauts, yet still meet safety standards. Astronauts are currently training in these new suits. (Photo from NASA)
Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I like to keep an eye on space tech related news. I still hope to see a breakthrough that takes us all up there. But, anyways...
When launching into space, it’s important to protect the astronauts exploring the atmosphere. Because of this, their suits have to be specially designed to make sure they can breathe easy and provide them with other essentials. But the standard suits are bulky and bring up their own problems, especially when they breakdown. Now a new, lighter suit is being tested for those riding on Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft.
While the new suit looks like something out of space themed video game, it’s lighter, more comfortable to wear and still meets NASA’s requirements for safety and functionality. Some of the new features include touchscreen sensitive gloves, vents to cool down astronauts, yet can still pressurize the suit in an instant, a helmet and visor that’s incorporated in the suit, and a more flexible design. The suit also includes integrated shoes. With all these new features, the suit, surprisingly, only weighs 20 pounds. That’s 10 pounds lighter than standard launch and entry suits worn by astronauts.
Not only is this new suit more comfortable, but it also keeps the astronauts cooler as well. You can imagine how hot it gets in the standard, bulky spacesuit. The material used to make the new suit allows water vapor to pass out of the suit, yet keeps air inside. This ensures the astronaut inside doesn’t get too hot but doesn’t give up any of the safety features. The suit also provides the person inside more movement thanks to the materials in the elbows and knees. And well-placed zippers lets them adapt to the suit’s shape whether standing or sitting.
It’s important to make the astronauts comfortable without compromising their safety, and these new suits still meet the required standards. But due to the new features, the astronauts have to train in the suits to learn how to move around in them. Astronauts Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, and Suni Williams are currently testing the suit inside a Starliner mock-up. They have to climb in and out several times and perform different positions to figure out the best way for them to work inside the confined spacecraft. Flight tests with astronauts aboard Boeing’s Starliner are expected to begin in 2018.
Astronauts plan to wear the new suits on launch day in the Crew Quarters before making their way across the Crew Access Arm at Space Launch Complex 41 and getting on a Starliner as it sits on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. These operational Commercial Crew missions, which carry up to four astronauts at a time, take the crew to the space station regularly and permits them on the orbiting laboratory to expand to seven residents. This allows more research and science time for NASA to find answers needed for future challenges deep-space mission may pose.
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