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NASA Unveils the Strange Suit Designed for Its Mars Explorers

by Allison Meier on May 2, 2014

NASA Z-2 design for the new spacesuits (all images via NASA)

NASA Z-2 design for the new spacesuits (all images via NASA)

If NASA astronauts land on Mars, they might not look very human at all. This week the new spacesuit design was announced with a grey hunchback form, glowing blue lights, and all the technology possible for an unfriendly alien terrain.

NASA Z-2 lighting up

NASA Z-2 lighting up

The Z-2 suit was selected after a public vote — a nice if perhaps meaningless gesture considering the $4.4 million tax payer price tag Wired cited for each suit. The Z-2 voting options were all about the same aside from some minor aesthetics, although Technology ended up winning. Perhaps practical minds didn’t go for the “Biomimicry” suit that took ideas from bioluminescent creatures deep in the ocean, or the “Trends in Society” option that claimed to be “reflective of what every day clothes may look like in the not too distant future,” presumably when the atmosphere is totally destroyed and all people care about is breathing.

The Z-2 doesn’t quite have the bold explorer quality of the shiny Mercury suits that were basically improved flight suits, or the familiar white moon spacesuits with their reflective face guards. The prototype for the Z-2 is planned to be ready for testing in November of this year (presumably if it doesn’t hit any James Webb Telescope-style delays).

NASA states that: “Each iteration of the Z-series will advance new technologies that one day will be used in a suit worn by the first humans to step foot on the Red Planet.” As you may know, we haven’t done much extraplanetary walking lately. This is the first time in three decades that the spacesuit has had a thorough redesign, but until people have a way to again break out of orbit, such as with the proposed Orion program, the use of the suits may be as speculative as the science fiction they seem to have lumbered out of.

NASA Z-2 designs (via NASA)

NASA Z-2 designs

Find more about the Z-2 Suit Prototype at NASA’s site.  

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