Nasa shows off prototype spacesuit for journey to Mars

Z-2 space suit Image copyright NASA
Image caption Will this be the suit worn by the first humans on Mars?

US space agency Nasa has been showing off the wardrobe essentials for future astronauts looking for a new outfit for their first flight to Mars.

Nasa said the Z-2 spacesuit was only a prototype, but elements of it would be incorporated into the suit worn by the first humans to reach the Red Planet.

The suit uses light-emitting patches and luminescent wire that could be customised to identify individuals.

The "technology" design beat two others with 63% of a public vote of 233,431.

Image copyright NASA
Image caption The suit will be tested in Nasa's pools used to teach astronauts to spacewalk

The others were:

  • a "bio-mimicry" suit, which mirrored the bioluminescence of aquatic creatures and the tough scaly skins of fish and reptiles
  • a "trends in society" suit, which reflected what everyday clothes may look like in the future

Aesthetic appeal

The Z-2 will be built using 3D-printed parts, and 3D laser scans will ensure each suit fits each astronaut perfectly.

It will be tested in vacuum chambers, at Nasa's training pool and at a site that imitates the rocky Martian surface.

Image copyright NASA
Image caption The first futuristic design would not have looked out of place on Toy Story space ranger Buzz Lightyear

In 2012 Nasa released the Z-1, which bore more than a passing similarity to the suit worn by fictional "space ranger" Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Stories films.

The first major overhaul of the spacesuit in about 30 years, the Z-1 was named as one of the year's best inventions by Time magazine.

Nasa said: "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."

And the Z-2 "pays homage to the spacesuit achievements of the past while incorporating subtle elements of the future".

Its hard composite upper torso "provides the much-needed long-term durability that a planetary extravehicular activity suit will require", but despite its "aesthetic appeal" the prototype was not made of the same durable material designed to protect space-walking astronauts from micro-meteorite strikes, extreme temperatures and radiation, Nasa added.

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