ESA unveils concept spacesuit glove of the future
ESA has taken the wraps off its concept for the spacesuit glove of the future. Derived from the space agency's two-year Pextex project aimed at finding new spacesuit materials, the mockup glove designed by the Comex company and designer Agatha Medioni incorporates new gadgets to help future astronauts with their work.
Though science fiction films may have led many to believe that spacesuits are glorified SCUBA gear with funny helmets, they are, in fact, remarkably complex pieces of technology. Far from being merely a protective coverall, a spacesuit is really a miniature spaceship that may even have its own propulsion system as well as the complex apparatus needed to protect and support the wearer in the harsh environment of space.
Spacesuits have been under development for almost a century, but they are still far from perfect. One of the most difficult components is the suit's gloves. These have to be strong enough to maintain an Earth-like atmosphere inside, yet bend in such a way that at least approximates the intricate movements of the human hand.
Unfortunately, modern space gloves leave much to be desired. The American version, for example, is very clumsy, cold to wear, and tends to strip off the astronaut's fingernails. To address some of these problems, ESA is looking at new materials and technologies for future spacesuits.
One of the results is this new glove concept. In addition to the usual functions of a spacesuit glove, the concept has a touch of James Bond about it with three extra gadgets built into the fingers. One of these is gesture control capabilities that allow the astronaut to control a rover or drone remotely with a wave of their hands. The second is a built-in laser for targeting and range-finding, and the third is a display showing the spacesuit's status and how much of its consumables are left – a great improvement on present suits where torso-mounted displays need to be read using a wrist mirror.
According to ESA, the spacesuit material from which the concept gloves are built could potentially enable future suits capable of self-repair and harvesting energy for greater efficiency, as well as the incorporation of integrated sensors, robot controls, and displays.