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World Space Walk Simultaneously Puts Three Mars-Capable Spacesuits To the Test

timothy posted about 10 months ago | from the first-one-to-pop-loses dept.

Mars 39

Zothecula writes "On October 8, three teams in various parts of the world participated in an unprecedented simultaneous test of three experimental spacesuits. Coordinated from a mission control center in Innsbruck, Austria run by the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF), World Space Walk 2013 aims at setting standards for developing suits for the future exploration of the planet Mars."

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That's great... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45132267)

now all we have to do is get there.

Not sure why 3 needed to be tested simultaneously either other then to say look at us we have 3 Mars spacesuits (and no way to get to Mars).

Re:That's great... (2)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 10 months ago | (#45132397)

It's not that we don't have the means to get there, surely we do have the technology. The problem is that, with the exception of the recently emerging and still infantile commercial space industry, human space flight is the product of, and at the limiting whim of political posturing. As long as politics are leading us no where fast, we are stuck on or at least around this wonderful moldy rock.

Re:That's great... (1)

garyebickford (222422) | about 10 months ago | (#45135539)

As a supporter of and somewhat-participant in the commercial space industry, I would prefer the term 'infant' to 'infantile' - the connotations are entirely different. :)

OTOH, it's true there are some in this industry (as in all industries) with a big too much hope and not quite enough reason! The public image of space, especially as presented in the media, has encouraged people think that it's really not rocket science any more. My great hope is that commercial space efforts will take the ball away from the politicians to some extent, so it can grow more naturally. But the fact remains that space is hard, extremely demanding, will take much more time and money than many people realize, and suffers fools not at all. But I hope and believe that we can do it, together.

Re:That's great... (3, Insightful)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 10 months ago | (#45132771)

Maybe NASA can pay the Russians to ferry them to Mars.

Re:That's great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45140107)

Maybe NASA can pay the Russians to ferry them to Mars.

Actually, right now NASA can't pay anyone to do anything.

Baby steps (5, Insightful)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 10 months ago | (#45132291)

Spaceships need space suites too.

Another important experiment that we need to perform - and that somehow never gets talked about - is radiation proofing an interplanetary spaceship. The only reason we can leave people in orbit for extensive periods is because they are within enough of the Earth's electromagnetic field to be protected from the bulk of solar radiation, making it easier to shield. The biggest obstacle in going to Mars will likely prove to be shielding a spacecraft from extreme radiation over the long transit time.

Re:Baby steps (3, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | about 10 months ago | (#45132483)

The biggest obstacle in going to Mars will likely prove to be shielding a spacecraft from extreme radiation over the long transit time.

You need mass with protons in it.

Re:Baby steps (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 10 months ago | (#45132533)

When you put it that way, it makes me disappointed that most radiation shielding consists of really heavy metals (and/or plastic; remember kids, shield your beta emitters properly!) and not giant zeppelins. That would be so much cooler. Yes. Zeppelins.

Re:Baby steps (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 10 months ago | (#45132549)

...daggit nabbit. Braking radiation, not breaking radiation.

Re:Baby steps (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45133137)

I think the term you're looking for is brehmsstralung. No chance of misspelling that. ;-)

Re:Baby steps (3, Interesting)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 10 months ago | (#45132747)

If we are lucky, graphene will come to our rescue on this issue too. There are early indications that this will be so. I'm sure it would take a bazillion layers, but that would surely still be orders of magnitude lighter than heavy metals. At the worst, say maybe lead would still have to incorporated, but it would still probably be practical (light enough) to get it off the ground in the first place. I swear graphene is shaping up to be the most important discovery in the history of discovery.

Re:Baby steps (1)

Nivag064 (904744) | about 10 months ago | (#45136959)

Build the spaceship on the Moon - plenty of mass for shielding and fuel on the moon (use sunlight to extract water and separate into H2 & O2).

Get the basic structure and fuel into Linar orbit, and mate with components from Earth. Only rocket engines and some minimal control & guidance stuff would have to get from Earth to the Moon's surface.

The crew for the voyage to Mars would join in Lunar orbit.

You would a few people on the Moon to oversee construction, but a lot of the hard work could be automated

Any long term exploration and./or colonisation of space, must go via the Moon to be sustainable.

Re:Baby steps (-1, Flamebait)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 10 months ago | (#45132765)

Maybe we could just send Megadeth or Cradle of Filth to Mars, they are already heavy metal!

Re:Baby steps (1)

khallow (566160) | about 10 months ago | (#45132769)

It's because of space restrictions. Something like solid lead can pack a lot more protons in a small area. For applications like spacecraft. density is not such an essential need. A giant bag of low pressure hydrogen is a viable shield in space (even with some degree of micrometeor damage).

Re:Baby steps (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 10 months ago | (#45138355)

When you put it that way, it makes me disappointed that most radiation shielding consists of really heavy metals (and/or plastic; remember kids, shield your beta emitters properly!) and not giant zeppelins. That would be so much cooler. Yes. Zeppelins.

You could combine the two approaches, but I'm not sure that Jimmy Page would appreciate being used that way. At least Bonzo won't complain too much.

Re:Baby steps (2)

green is the enemy (3021751) | about 10 months ago | (#45133125)

The mass has been estimated in the hundreds of tons: wiki [wikipedia.org]

The propellant mass required to accelerate it to a Mars transfer orbit will be pretty enormous, but maybe not impossibly large, especially if we use reusable rockets to get it into Earth orbit. I wonder if the majority of the acceleration could be done over a multi-year time frame using ion engines, and then the Mars transfer spacecraft docks with the crew capsule and puts in the rest of the delta-V using chemical engines. In any case, this shielded spacecraft will only be useful one-way. It would not be possible to slow it into a Mars orbit and then accelerate it back into an Earth-transfer orbit. So it's a one-way shielded trip to Mars. I wish we were working on something like this... It might even be possible to send the return spacecraft (unmanned) on a large looping orbit that upon intersecting Mars changes into a fast Mars-Earth transfer orbit. The crew then blasts off Mars in a small capsule and docks with the return spacecraft.

Re:Baby steps (1)

khallow (566160) | about 10 months ago | (#45133233)

The propellant mass required to accelerate it to a Mars transfer orbit will be pretty enormous

No reason the propellant couldn't be part of the radiation shield mass. After all, you will need some propellant, if you plan to land anything on Mars larger than a small rover.

So it's a one-way shielded trip to Mars.

Unless you produce propellant on Mars or Phobos for the return trip.

It might even be possible to send the return spacecraft (unmanned) on a large looping orbit that upon intersecting Mars changes into a fast Mars-Earth transfer orbit.

Buzz Aldrin called this the Mars cycler [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Baby steps (1)

green is the enemy (3021751) | about 10 months ago | (#45134149)

Yeah, a more practical shielded spacecraft will likely be a cycler, so it would be used for both the forward and return trips. We would need to develop the technology for docking in solar orbit rather than Earth orbit, which I imagine has much less error margin.

Even though these space transportation techniques seem feasible, it is just so unlikely that we'll do any of it given the current political climate. Even a mission to a near-Earth asteroid seems unlikely. Is the argument that manned space fight is a waste of money really valid? Even if the direct return on investment is low or negative (however it's measured), maybe just the entertainment and inspiration value would be enough of a return? The moon landings were certainly very inspirational. I can't imagine spending the same amount of money on anything else and achieving the same or better effect.

Is it really a space suit (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | about 10 months ago | (#45132319)

if you're not in space?

Re:Is it really a space suit (2)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 10 months ago | (#45132481)

That's not a bad point. It really would make sense to have classifications such as: space class suite, Luna class suite, Mars class suite, etc... After all, the needs are very different and unique to each environment.

Re:Is it really a space suit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45136335)

Er, excuse me but that's the second time I've seen that misspelling. There is no I in suit. A suit is something you wear, a suite is a set of things belonging together, in particular or a set of rooms designated for one person's or family's use or for a particular purpose.

If you're talking about hoses but you say houses I'm going to be confused.

Re:Is it really a space suit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45136655)

There is no I in E.

The third letter in suit is... :P

Re:Is it really a space suit (1)

Cyko_01 (1092499) | about 10 months ago | (#45135591)

is it really a swim suit if you are not swimming?

Summary (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 10 months ago | (#45132573)

tl;dr version - you have two amateur groups and one university group re-creating basic experiments first performed at least forty plus years ago in space suit simulators that don't appear to have any notable fidelity.

I fail to see the point.

Re:Summary (2)

cusco (717999) | about 10 months ago | (#45132775)

Technology has now gotten good enough that amateur and university groups can do this type of work. You don't think that's cool? I do.

Re:Summary (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 10 months ago | (#45133275)

Amateur and university groups have been doing this in the past. One group that I do think is impressive is this effort by Copenhagen Suborbitals [youtube.com] , as they are motivated by real world constraints and the fact they are going to put this spacesuit around a person who actually will be in the vacuum of space.

While it is certainly a technology that needs to be developed in order to actually get into space, it is hardly the most important thing. If they were showing how to make spacesuits on the cheap (like the Copenhagen Suborbital example) or showing an alternative design that really pushes the concept of a spacesuit (like some of the "skin tight" examples [mit.edu] I've seen that are more like a diving wet suit as opposed to a military aviation flight suit) I'd be more impressed. There are some very real challenges for building space suits, but it is also a well developed and tested engineering regime. About a thousand people have been into space so far, which has given plenty of practical tests and mountains of data to compare against including some problems that happened in terms of the assumptions people made with those suits that simply is incorrect.

It is nice that some people are thinking about these issue, but I hardly think this group in the main parent article is going really be setting any sort of standards for suit design.

Re:Summary (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 10 months ago | (#45134605)

"Technology" has been good enough to dress up in space suit costumes for decades. It's only recently that amateur and university groups have arrived at the mistaken conclusion that doing so represents anything useful.

Re:Summary (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 10 months ago | (#45132839)

Oh, naive one. The point is to maintain NASA's funding.

Re:Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45133061)

I came here thinking they were working on the cooling problem. Looks like it's vaporware--or rather, lack thereof.

(You can't use the sort of evaporative cooling used by vacuum suits in Mars' atmosphere. Cooling is extremely difficult there because the air's too thin to cool you much and too thick to let the exposed surface of your cooling fluid freeze solid and slowly sublimate.)

Uggly (1)

macson_g (1551397) | about 10 months ago | (#45132749)

At least one of the suits (DRS Analogue) looks like its made from overalls, old backpack, PVC plumbing elements and silver duct-tape. I don't know if I should laugh or admire the pioneer spirit. Ah, one one more thing: all the suits are ugly as hell. What happened to this nice design: http://spaceindustrynews.com/mits-next-mars-space-suit/1563/ [spaceindustrynews.com] ?

Re:Uggly (2)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 10 months ago | (#45132799)

It is only in science fiction that the aesthetics of a space suit are a priority.

Re:Uggly (1)

darnkitten (1533263) | about 10 months ago | (#45133329)

Well, ya know, when we actually routinely put people on Mars, we are going to see many spacesuits made of "overalls, old backpack[s], PVC plumbing elements and silver duct-tape." Supply lines will be tenuous and we need to start now figuring out how to DIY suits from old rover parts and low-temperature duct tape.

Re:Uggly (1)

macson_g (1551397) | about 10 months ago | (#45133587)

Admiration it is then. BTW: read 'The Martian' by Andy Weir, it's great!

Re:Uggly (1)

darnkitten (1533263) | about 10 months ago | (#45145595)

Thanks for the recommendation--it sounds like something i'll enjoy. I had to pre-order it, though, as all the e-copies seem to have been removed in anticipation of the hardcover release next February. *scowl*

Air pressure (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 10 months ago | (#45133035)

While air pressure as an issue is mentioned in the article, it is quite obvious that the suits are not being tested with the atmospheric pressure that would be required. That makes it difficult to take this seriously, as pressure would have a substantial effect on range of motion and thus should be an integral factor that needs testing. I see four major challenges to building a spacesuit (I'm sure there are more):

1. Radiation shielding.
2. Atmospheric pressure.
3. Decent air supply
4. Range of motion as dictated by the first three.

If you don't test solutions to all of these factors at once, there is little point in testing at all since the are strongly interrelated. This looks more like cosplay.

Re:Air pressure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#45134553)

Didn't anything get learned when someone almost drowned in their suit?
They need to add a drain-plug, internal air pressure would quickly blow out dangerous liquids.
Now if in space there might be other issues about air pressure and drain plugs.
 

Re:Air pressure (1)

garyebickford (222422) | about 10 months ago | (#45135655)

IANA suit expert, but it seems to me that for the primary need of keeping one's insides where they belong, there is minimal need for air inside the suit, except possibly the head - really just the breathing system and the eyes. The key thing for most of the suit is to replace the air pressure we are used to with some other form of constraint. Today I watched a thing about those Speedo swim suits that MIchael Phelps et al used in their record Olympic swims. Among other things, they were very tight fitting. Even neoprene diving wetsuits provide a lot of constriction, although they are designed for a different purpose. So I wonder if even the MIT suit might be trying too hard with their directional stretch.

Upcoming Paper should be interesting (1)

J05H (5625) | about 10 months ago | (#45137281)

They are publishing results in Astrobiology to create a standard metric for analog space suits. Operating standardization is a great next step for this field.

On a human-factors standpoint it will be interesting to see the energetic differences between the suits. One issue is they are being tested in different place with different wearers.

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