Remember how pissed you were that NASA didn't even TRY to contact you before they retired the shuttle? Well, they've learned their lesson, because now they're reaching out to you to help them with something tricky: picking a new spacesuit!
NASA's new Z-2 suit is, as the name implies, the second development in their Z-series of space suits. The new suit uses a step-into design with a sort of 'back door' – not unlike the Soviet/Russian Orlan suits in use since the Mir. That entry hatch can also interface with current-style docking hatches and in-development suit ports – essentially, little ports on the outside of a spacecraft that let the suits "dock" to the outside and allow easy access in and out, as well as stowing the suit outside the ship.
Here's some other fun facticles about the new suit:
- First surface-specific planetary mobility suit to be tested in full vacuum
- First use of 3D human laser scans and 3D-printed hardware for suit development and sizing
- Most advanced use of impact resistant composite structures on a suit upper and lower torso system
- First integration of the suit-port concept with a hard upper torso suit structure
- Most conformal and re-sizeable hard upper torso suit built to date
That's a pretty advanced space suit. But that's not the part NASA needs your help on – you get to help with the fun stuff. Specifically, how are these suits going to look.
See, we've gotten so advanced with space suits that we can now actually incorporate a little fashion into the mix. And not just boring old Earth-fashion — self-illuminated space fashion.
NASA has come up with three illuminated design themes for the suits – and these illuminated decorations aren't just for show, they help improve visibility and identification of the astronauts when they're working in space. Here's the three basic themes:
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.
The design specifically includes segmented pleats at the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee, and electroluminescent wire across the upper torso, which becomes apparent in reduced light.
"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.
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.
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 design specifically includes gore pleats with contrast stitching throughout to highlight mobility, an exposed bearing at the hip, and electroluminescent wire and patches of varying styles across both the upper and lower torso.
So, give it some careful thought, photoshop your face into the visors, make your own versions out of cardboard and sharpies, and see what you think. Go here when you're ready to vote!
I think I'm going for the "technology" one, since it'll look the best when I'm on my Light Cycle.