The NASA Z-2 Suit

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NASA's Z-2 Suit is the newest prototype in its next-generation spacesuit platform, the Z-series. As a follow-up to the previous Z-1 suit, which was named one of Time Magazine's Best Inventions of 2012, the Z-2 takes the next step in fidelity approaching a final flight-capable design. 

Most exciting, the Z-2 marks several milestones for NASA:

  • 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 dateIn addition to these firsts we, the space suit engineers, have found ourselves with another exciting opportunity: the chance to make a suit with a look unlike any suit ever built before. 

After the positive response to the Z-1 suit's visual design we received, we wanted to take the opportunity to provide this new suit with an equally memorable appearance. The cover layer of a prototype suit is important as it serves to protect the suit against abrasion and snags during the rigors of testing. With the Z-2, we're looking forward to employing cover layer design elements never used in a spacesuit before. The designs shown were produced in collaboration with ILC, the primary suit vendor and Philadelphia University. The designs were created with the intent to protect the suit and to highlight certain mobility features to aid suit testing. To take it a step further, we are leaving it up you, the public, to choose which of three candidates will be built. 

Please review the three concepts below and make your selection. Voting is open through April 15, 2014 at 11:59pm EDT.

Option A: "Biomimicry

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. 

Scroll through the various photos of the design at right. Click below to view a 3D interactive model both in daylight and darkness, and the original 2D designs upon which these models were based. 

Written By: NASA
continue to source article at jscfeatures.jsc.nasa.gov

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32 COMMENTS

    • In reply to #1 by QuestioningKat:

      looks familiar   Not sure if this Z-1 can be aesthetically topped.

      That’s the first thought that came to my mind: Buzz Lightyear. And no, it can’t be topped. I didn’t vote because I don’t care much for those dull, dark grey-blue tones. A space suit should have a relatively pale dominant color (white or cream or pale yellow) with bright darker color accents. Orange colored suits like in 2001 A Space Odyssey with dark accents (black or blue) would work well too.

      Space exploration is spectacular. The suits should be flashy in order to reflect this.

    • In reply to #5 by old-toy-boy:

      Is this some sort of joke? the chap is wearing industrial lace-up safety boots, ( is it April the 1st today?)

      ‘How is the Z-2 suit different from the Z-1 suit? ‘

      ‘the boots are much closer in nature to those that would be found on a flight ready model’

    • In reply to #12 by QuestioningKat:

      (reading the comments) Proof that most have not read the article, other comments, nor voted on the new designs.

      Never mind whether people have read the article and voted, I just can’t believe nobody’s mentioned the Z1 looks like Buzz Lightyear! Going to be difficult making a better looking suit than that…

      • In reply to #27 by BenS:

        In reply to #12 by QuestioningKat:

        (reading the comments) Proof that most have not read the article, other comments, nor voted on the new designs.

        Never mind whether people have read the article and voted, I just can’t believe nobody’s mentioned the Z1 looks like Buzz Lightyear!

        It was well noted when it came out.

        The Z2 foolishly looks to include electroluminescent wire to look even cooler. This is a bad mistake. Woven fibre-optic cloth from GE will net more efficient results from standard LEDs, cooler lightshows, less interference and greater reliability. I clearly need to get over there and fix it…

    • In reply to #18 by KRKBAB:

      A question: Why are people asking if this is a joke?

      Perhaps because it’s completely absurd that designers of space suits take things like “trends in society” into serious consideration. Space suits are not clothes. They are an artificial biosphere for humans in space. Who the fuck cares what they look like. They whole idea that we are even discussing these suits like they were pieces of fashion is utterly absurd. Hence, the question whether this is a joke. Sort of a tongue in cheek discussion about the future of space colonization. A time when space suits like clothes are consumer goods that need to be fashionable… I’m actually more surprised that so many here actually take this article seriously.

      • In reply to #30 by Nunbeliever:

        Perhaps because it’s completely absurd that designers of space suits take things like “trends in society” into serious consideration. Space suits are not clothes. They are an artificial biosphere for humans in space. Who the fuck cares what they look like. They whole idea that we are even discussing these suits like they were pieces of fashion is utterly absurd.

        I agree!!

        A space suit is a VERY expensive hi-tech piece of equipment, so asking questions about fashion, is like asking a thick motorist to make choices about a hi-tech vehicle – anything beyond the number of seats, the number of doors, the colour, the upholstery, and the music system, is probably beyond them.

        This is a publicity gimmick. Here is the spec. on an earlier model!

        Modern Space Suit: EMU – Cost = $12 million each. http://science.howstuffworks.com/space-suit4.htm

        As I mentioned @19, the superficial gizmo-hype, should not distract or detract from the really important advanced design features!

        I recognised what the article was talking about, not because it was well explained, but because I had previously seen (as linked @19) the research on which the technical design was based.

      • In reply to #30 by Nunbeliever:

        who the fuck cares what they look like

        Outside of this forum, how do you know u.s. citizens, who help fund congress>nasa, don’t?

        take this article seriously

        Danger Will Robinson – NASA deems it fit to have a contest for a cover layer design – side effects may include engaging the public.

        • In reply to #32 by bluebird:

          In reply to #30 by Nunbeliever:

          who the fuck cares what they look like

          Outside of this forum, how do you know u.s. citizens, who help fund congress>nasa, don’t?

          take this article seriously

          Danger Will Robinson – NASA deems it fit to have a contest for a cover layer design – side effects may incl…

          Yeah, sadly without Bucks, there is no Buck Rodgers. So NASA will have a PR department going full swing trying to bring the general public along. In my humble opinion the fact that science like this needs to be hyped is probably our greatest failure of education in the West. Here we all are living in a scientific society and very few of the beneficiaries of the knowledge have any sense of wonder and curiosity about it all. We are social animals geared towards existing in a social context for most of us this dominates our lives look at teenagers and their phones, here is a device geared completely towards our social biases. If given half a chance they will allow their lives to be dominated not by the phone but by their checking on their position in the social order. Unfortunately this works against the very sort of people required to design the damn things in the first place. Science and technology reward me immensely, is this just me or can we all catch the bug? Or will it be just a minority of people out there who care? I wouldn’t go so far as to say those not educated in science shouldn’t be allowed to vote but people who have no knowledge of the most powerful methods of discovering knowledge and ultimately power yet discovered should be made to feel a bit embarrassed at least.

  1. @OP link – First surface-specific planetary mobility suit to be tested in full vacuum

    These features should not be missed by distraction from gizmo-hype voting!

    The development of a double skin space suit with an inner and outer shell – http://badefix.lrt.mw.tu-muenchen.de/en/wissenschaft/arbeit.phtml?aID=206, is a key feature.

    @OP – First integration of the suit-port concept with a hard upper torso suit structure.

    ….

    @My link – The future fields of application will not be restricted to zero gravity activities. It shall also be
    possible to work in low gravity like on Moon or Mars, even as in normal gravity like on
    Earth.

    Therefore, the new generation spacesuits have to be much lighter and movable than the
    existing ones. Another today’s big disadvantage is the long preparation time for a spacewalk.

    A special approach of this thesis handles the contamination problem, which appears for example on Mars or Moon. The today’s practice is using an airlock with a decontamination phase.

    To replace this procedure, the spacesuit will be docked to the station / spacecraft like a
    vehicle. So, the contaminated areas will remain outside and the astronaut can leave the suit
    trough a bulkhead.
    If necessary, the suit can now be cleaned without harming the astronaut.
    Furthermore, the spacesuit shall be adaptable in size, so that the crew members are not re-
    stricted to a special suit. This requirement leads to the double shell concept:

    The Double Shell Spacesuit (DSS) shall consist of two separate suits, namely an inner and an outer suit. This
    concept shall provide a modular separation of functions.

    To explain this in a little more detail:- The outer suit remains docked to the outside of the outside wall of a Lunar or Mars base, while the astronaut wearing the inner suit, climbs into it though a double-door hatch in the back of the suit. This means that dust and contamination from outside remains outside, and that any contamination on the hatch in the back of the suit, remains trapped between the two doors of the double hatch, so it is not brought into the vehicle or the station when re-entering.

    Likewise, any contamination from Earth is not carried out of the vehicle on to Mars (or other destination).

  2. A comment: The fact that these suits are being designed all while many people still roam this planet who are creationists and god fearing is absurd. It’s amusing, and not in a good way.
    Go science. It’s the best we have.

  3. The Z series looks like an evolutionary R&D project to develop a new suit ready for the Martian surface and are not intended for actual use. They do however get put through all the stress testing that a real suit would do.

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