Space

NASA announces winner in Z-2 spacesuit contest

The winning Technology design harkens back to more conventional spacesuits, but with some sci-fi elements added (Image: NASA)
The winning Technology design harkens back to more conventional spacesuits, but with some sci-fi elements added (Image: NASA)
View 14 Images
The Z-1 prototype in its support frame (Image: NASA)
1/14
The Z-1 prototype in its support frame (Image: NASA)
The Z-1 prototype (Image: NASA)
2/14
The Z-1 prototype (Image: NASA)
The Z-2 can withstand a full vacuum (Image: NASA)
3/14
The Z-2 can withstand a full vacuum (Image: NASA)
The Z-2 has improved joint mobility (Image: NASA)
4/14
The Z-2 has improved joint mobility (Image: NASA)
The Z-2's electroluminescent patches are designed to aid crew identification (Image: NASA)
5/14
The Z-2's electroluminescent patches are designed to aid crew identification (Image: NASA)
The Z-2 is part of a project to make a suit for exploring Mars (Image: NASA)
6/14
The Z-2 is part of a project to make a suit for exploring Mars (Image: NASA)
The Z-2 with light patches (Image: NASA)
7/14
The Z-2 with light patches (Image: NASA)
Testing of the Z-2 will be ready for testing in November (Image: NASA)
8/14
Testing of the Z-2 will be ready for testing in November (Image: NASA)
The Z-2 will be tested on a simulated Martian surface (Image: NASA)
9/14
The Z-2 will be tested on a simulated Martian surface (Image: NASA)
The Z-2 will be tested in a neutral buoyancy tank (Image: NASA)
10/14
The Z-2 will be tested in a neutral buoyancy tank (Image: NASA)
The winning Technology design harkens back to more conventional spacesuits, but with some sci-fi elements added (Image: NASA)
11/14
The winning Technology design harkens back to more conventional spacesuits, but with some sci-fi elements added (Image: NASA)
The contest allowed the public to vote for one of three designs (Image: NASA)
12/14
The contest allowed the public to vote for one of three designs (Image: NASA)
Each of the competing designs highlighted a different mobility characteristic (Image: NASA)
13/14
Each of the competing designs highlighted a different mobility characteristic (Image: NASA)
The testing of the Z-2 will be used to deign the Z-3 (Image: NASA)
14/14
The testing of the Z-2 will be used to deign the Z-3 (Image: NASA)

The votes are in with NASA announcing the winner of its Z-2 spacesuit design challenge. For the challenge, the public was invited to choose one of three alternative designs for a new prototype spacesuit with the “Technology” option winning with 233,431 votes, or about 63 percent of the total vote. The Technology design will now be used in the completed Z-2 suit as part of NASA’s project to create a new spacesuit for the exploration of Mars.

The Z-2 is that latest in the Z-series of spacesuit prototypes created for NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division. The goal is to develop a new suit, through a number of iterations, that can be used for a manned mission to Mars. The Z-2 is not itself a flightworthy suit and will not be sent into space because it lacks the specific high-performance materials and design details needed for working outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

The challenge allowed the public to vote for one of three versions of the Z-2 cover layer, each of which was designed by Philadelphia University and the primary suit vendor, ILC Dover. Each of these designs highlighted a mobility characteristic, as well as including electroluminescent wiring, which has never been used on a spacesuit before. NASA hopes that the wiring will help in space crew identification.

The contest allowed the public to vote for one of three designs (Image: NASA)
The contest allowed the public to vote for one of three designs (Image: NASA)

The cover layer is the outermost layer of a spacesuit that protects the lower layers and spacesuit components from snagging and abrasion. In a fully operational spacesuit, the layer also protects the astronaut against micrometeorites, heat, cold, and radiation. NASA also admits that it makes the suit look better.

According to NASA, the Z-2 has a number of improvements over the earlier Z-1, which has been the subject of two years of evaluations. The Z-2 has a hard composite upper torso for greater durability, the shoulder and hip joints are more mobile, and the boots are more like those that would be found on a space-ready suit. In addition, the Z-2 can withstand a full-vacuum during testing.

The Z-2 will be tested in a neutral buoyancy tank (Image: NASA)
The Z-2 will be tested in a neutral buoyancy tank (Image: NASA)

The winning Technology design, as the name implies, harkens back to more conventional spacesuits, but with some sci-fi elements added, such as Luminex wire and light-emitting patches for crew identification. It also has exposed rotating bearings, collapsing pleats for mobility and highlighted movement, and abrasion-resistant panels on the lower torso.

NASA says that the Z-2 will be completed by November and will be tested at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, which simulates weightless conditions using a swimming pool, then on a simulated Martian surface. The engineers will evaluate the Z-2’s mobility, comfort and performance, as well as subjecting it to multiple vacuum chamber tests with pressures down to that of a full vacuum. The results of the tests will then be used in designing the Z-3.

Source: NASA

13 comments
SciFi9000
Not that form isn't important, but as space ventures are still in their infancy, what's the point of teaching the baby running styles before it learns to walk. Making cheap functional suits is the goal at this stage isn't it? Remember, the Phoenix can fly only when it's feathers have grown.
Pin
Why do our astronauts need to look like they're wearing tourist shorts?
Roderic Langer
This whole thing seemed to me to be about creating the illusion of choice for the general populace. It's a publicity stunt. The suits aren't that different from one another.
Drifter
We claim this planet is property of YMCA. Seriously, that's fine, it is a 'life' symbol. Please allow the public to get involved with 'our' spending; sooner
Satweavers
P.R. exercise. Perhaps it will raise some awareness or something.
Mark Keller
I preferred the original prototype.
jerry
They need bigger ray guns.
The Creator
While this new suit may be sufficient for micro gravity EVA's (like spacewalks), I'd argue that its a poor choice for the exploration of the surface of Mars. A much better option would be a mechanical counter-pressure suit, like the biosuit being developed at MIT.
Brett King
it looks like a Krogan from Mass Effect
Slowburn
@ KushSmoka420 Skin suits are less comfortable when worn long term and gives you less time to make a fix if it gets a hole.