The present day space suit can hardly be called a suit in literal sense. It is a bulky, gas-pressurized suit which allows very little movement of the body. However, all this is going to change soon. The techno geeks at MIT are designing a space suit which will allow much greater freedom of movement for the astronaut. The spacesuit of future will be a lightweight, stretchy garment, lined with tiny, muscle like coils. Their space suit will be plugged into the spacecraft’s power supply, triggering the coils to contract and essentially shrink-wrap the garment around her body.
Not only will the skintight, pressurized suit support the astronaut, but would give the astronaut much more freedom to move during any space odyssey. A little force is all that is required to return the suit to its looser form.
A brain child of Dava Newman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems at MIT, and her colleagues, the ‘second-skin’ spacesuit is an active compression garment that integrates small, spring like coils that contract in when heated. It is made up of shape-memory alloy (SMA). Shape-memory alloy or SMA is a kind of material that “remembers” an engineered shape, when it is bent or deformed. When it is heated it regains its original shape.
Dava Newman said, “With conventional spacesuits, you’re essentially in a balloon of gas that’s providing you with the necessary one-third of an atmosphere [of pressure,] to keep you alive in the vacuum of space. We want to achieve that same pressurization, but through mechanical counter pressure — applying the pressure directly to the skin, thus avoiding the gas pressure altogether. We combine passive elastics with active materials. … Ultimately, the big advantage is mobility, and a very lightweight suit for planetary exploration.”
The integrated skin tight suit will enhance the performance of our astronauts allowing them to stay longer during space walks and also will be less tiring for them.