NASA has revealed its first new spacesuit in 20 years, the Z-1 prototype. Not only is it packed with way more tech than its predecessor – which dates back to the pre-internet era – it also acts as an airlock.
Most spacesuits you see in films are actually emergency pressure suits meant for short-term use inside a ship if pressure fails. The Z-1 is more like a spaceship that fits around your body – protecting you from extreme temperatures, air contaminants, and micrometeorites – all while remaining flexible.
NASA is working on the Z-1 with a plan to use it on a mission to Mars. So after spending years getting there the red planet walkers won’t want to waste time with airlocks. That’s why the Z-1 can dock directly to a ship or lander and pressurise, allowing the wearing to walk out the back of it into the vehicle.
Not that they’ll need to come in often, thanks to the new carbon dioxide filter system that works by self refreshing – unlike the old one that needed to be baked nightly to remove the gas. Plus the new cooler system uses a water membrane evaporation cooler – like sweating – that’ll keep temperatures comfortable.
All these developments are just the start for NASA – the agency is pressing ahead with the Z-1 suit's successor, the appropriately-named Z-2, aiming to have a finished prototype ready for 2015. Then it’s time for John Carter to roll out the red carpet on the red planet (or is it green there?) – because Mars, here we come.
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