The design of NASA’s Z-2 spacesuit, which will be used for surface-specific planetary mobility, has been chosen, with 63-percent of the votes going to the “Technology” option. The suit is expected to go into testing as early as this November, and is the newest prototype in NASA’s next-generation spacesuit platform. The hope it to one day outfit astronauts with future iterations on the surface of Mars. The Z-series of spacesuits is part of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division, which is focused on creating technology for human missions beyond Earth’s orbit.
NASA said the Z-2 is much more advanced than the outgoing Z-1 suit, the most significant change being that the Z-2 is equipped with a hard composite upper torso, which should better protect astronauts long-term under harsh conditions. The Z-2 suit also has more flexible shoulder and hip joints, allowing for greater dexterity when on a mission, while the suit’s boots also differ and resemble that of a suit “ready for space.” NASA said the materials used on the Z-2 will also be compatible with a full-vacuum environment.
The entire suit will be fitted with a protective “cover layer” design, including an advanced use of impact resistant composite structures and electroluminescent wiring. With the Technology design being chosen, NASA says the suit will be outfitted with the wiring and patches across the upper and lower torso, with exposed rotating bearings, collapsing for mobility and abrasion resistant panels. In addition to being more flexible and flat-out looking awesome, the suit will help better protect astronauts from micrometeorites, extreme temperatures and even radiation.
When testing gets underway, engineers will put it through zero-gravity tests, buoyancy, mobility, and performance. That will eventually help guide engineers toward the next phase of the Z-series. Unfortunately, the design chosen by fans won’t make an actual trip to space anytime soon. The Z-series platform is still in the early prototype stages, which means they aren’t quite ready for flight. But as the agency progresses, perhaps we’ll see something similar to Technology on the surface of Mars.
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