SternisheFan writes "Miriam Kramer of Space.com writes: It might make the astronaut wearing it look like a real-life Buzz Lightyear, but a new prototype spacesuit that NASA just finished testing represents the first major overhaul in spacesuit technology since 1998.
Flexible, white, and lime green accented, the suit — known as the Z-1 — is designed not only to help astronauts comfortably maneuver during spacewalks in microgravity, but also to deftly move about when walking on the surface of a planet or other smaller heavenly body, like an asteroid. Plus, it's fashionable: The suit bears an unmistakable resemblance to the costume worn by "Toy Story" animated film character Buzz Lightyear.
The spacesuit in use today for spacewalking, known as an EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit), was designed to aid in building the International Space Station, but a previous iteration of the EMU was used for moonwalks during the Apollo missions. While both of these models serve their respective purposes, the creators of the Z-1 wanted to develop a more versatile outfit for space.
One of the big differences is the rear-entry design," Amy Ross, one of the engineers responsible for the suit's development, said during a NASA video interview. "So the shuttle EMU splits at the waist and you put pants on and you put the top on separately and they connect in the middle. Whereas with this suit, the subject crawls in through the back, and then we just shut the door."
Creating a back-entry suit solves a few of the problems spacewalkers often face during trips to the International Space Station. Using airlocks to depressurize is a time consuming, exhausting process. By using a rear-entry design, the astronauts won't need to go through an airlock at all. The suit hooks up to the outside of the spacecraft using the "space port" opening, and the spacewalker simply climbs in and detaches."
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