Is This What NASA's Astronauts Will Be Wearing to Mars?
"As the Z-1 suit was named one of TIME's 'Best Inventions of 2012,' the Z-2 Suit is the newest prototype in its next-generation spacesuit," according to NASA.
According to NASA, "The design specifically includes electroluminescent wire and patches across the upper and lower torso, exposed rotating bearings, collapsing pleats for mobility and highlighted movement, and abrasion resistant panels on the lower torso."
The solid upper torso is made of a lightweight material with 3-D printed components giving future astronauts considerably more flexibility. Ankle, hip and waist bearings allow astronauts to bend over and kneel to collect samples or study the ground, rather than face-planting or using a trash picker like in the past.
Astronauts will slide into the 140-pound suit from a fridge-like door on the back, instead of putting the segments on separately like in the old suits. A new ventilation system cycles oxygen and carbon dioxide in a way that prevents leaks, making space walks considerably safer.
Winner, winner: The suit was actually chosen by you, the fan. In March, NASA opened a poll for fan-voting between 3 designs: "biomimicry," "trends in society" and "technology."
Image Credit (all): NASA
A few months and 233,431 votes later, the Tron-like "technology" design was chosen with 63.1% of the votes and will continue through as the main design template during the design process. NASA expects the suit, which was design by ILC Dover with the help of students from Philadelphia University, to be ready for testing by November.
Past and future: Astronauts' space suits (for both in-the-craft and space-walks) have undergone a series of design changes since the '60s, evolving based on new technologies and necessities for NASA missions. Although this specific design is still in the prototype phase and won't be making an missions into space, it's a welcome change considering the increased safety and mobility aspects astronauts will obviously need during future trips into space and to Mars. This past week, NASA announced plans to launch manned, deep space missions to Mars and beyond in their newest ship, Orion, which is expected to go on its first mission in December.