The technology behind spacesuits that keep astronauts safe

The space race has reemerged over the last few years with new technology enabling greater opportunities. As astronauts are preparing for another decade of progress in space exploration, their spacesuits are also advancing.

Astronaut moon
NASA is currently working on a more flexible spacesuit for future missions to space. Photo: NASA

Important features

Current generation spacesuits help astronauts with critical functions and aspects while beyond the earth’s atmosphere. In the first instance, they help them regulate their temperature while in more sensitive atmospheres.

Additionally, they supply oxygen to help them breathe while in space. The backpacks of these suits hold the oxygen and they also remove carbon dioxide so the astronauts don’t suffocate while in the helmets.

NASA states that current backpacks also supply electricity and hold fans to move oxygen around the suit. Along with this, they hold water for astronauts to drink while on a mission.

The suits also have an important job of protecting against space dust, which can be dangerous if someone is struck by it. These particles travel faster than a bullet.

Therefore, they can cause a lot of damage if there was an impact on the body. They also have gold-lined visors to protect against bright sunlight, which is stronger in space.

Furthermore, there is a tool called SAFER on the back of NASA’s suits. This has several small thruster jets to help astronauts fly back if they floated away from docks such as the International Space Station (ISS).

Recent revisions

As organizations gear up for mission expansions, spacesuits are seeing evolutions in their technologies. The Metro recently reported on SpaceX’s new fashionable suits that NASA astronauts have been testing ahead of missions to the ISS.

SpaceX NASA
SpaceX’s newly-designed suits for missions such as those in their Crew Dragon capsules are more sleek than their predecessors. Photo: NASA Astronauts via Twitter

NASA recently shared that it is vying for nimbler outfits to help astronauts be agile as they prepare for more ambitious venture. The lower torso of the pressure garment on the next-generation suit includes advanced materials and joint bearings.

This will allow astronauts to now and rotate at their hips and help them bend their knees. Meanwhile, there is now more flexibility on the upper torso thanks to shoulder enhancements. Therefore, astronauts will be able to move their arms more easily to lift objects over their heads while undertaking tasks.

NASA Spacesuit
Digital fit checks of astronauts are conducted at the Anthropometry and Biomechanics Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. This helps to create the most comfort while potential for skin irritation. Photo: NASA

Communication is key

NASA explains that the headsets on the suits often become sweaty and uncomfortable. Additionally, the microphone doesn’t always track well with movement. Therefore, the group has also redesigned the communications system within the helmet.

“The new audio system includes multiple, embedded, voice-activated microphones inside the upper torso that automatically pick up the astronaut’s voice when they speak to their fellow spacewalker, their crewmates aboard the Gateway, or mission control in Houston,” NASA explained on its website.

“The helmet on the suits for Artemis missions will also feature a quick-swap protective visor. The clear protective visor is a sacrifi­cial shield that protects the pressurized bubble from any wear and tear or dents and scratches from the abrasive dirt of planetary bodies.”

The mission continues

Altogether, as space exploration continues to evolve, the suits are evolving with them. Astronauts need to maintain freedom in their movement while new abilities are needed with the suits. Ultimately, designers need to find the perfect balance for astronauts and technology to function together.

What do you think about the spacesuits that astronauts use? Let us know what your thoughts are in the comment section.

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