The Freedom of Movement: Bio Suits

4.3 billion years ago an ocean laps up to meet a shore on the planet Mars. Water, kilometers deep in places, fills a canyon the length of the United States. A dense atmosphere creates clouds just like we experience on Earth. The highest mountain in our solar system, three time higher than Mount Everest, looms. In the 200 million years that have passed since, Mars has lost its atmosphere and all water sources are thought to have left with it.

bio suit
MIT Professor Dava Newman is a fashion designer to the stars and while you won’t see her work on the red carpet, all the most fashionable space explorers will be wearing her designs when they set foot on the red planet. Photo: Dava Newman via Wired

Just this past month, one of the five orbiters working on Mars took an astonishing photo that changed history and our conception of the red planet. Along the Garni Crater, hydrated minerals were found by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Streak marks along the crater appear to ebb and flow downhill, proving that some of that ancient water is still there. NASA has been on a mission to make it to Mars for decades, and hopes to have its first team of astronauts there within the next 15 to 25 years.

Nasa’s Mars rover, Curiosity, has been exploring the Gale Crater on the planet since 2012 and found tantalising clues of possible life. In December it discovered ‘burps’ of methane, which Nasa scientists said could indicate “life or evidence of ancient methane trapped which could show ancient life”. Words via Telegram /Photo courtesy of Nasa/JPL/University of Arizona

One of the largest challenges for NASA is the issue of mobility in space. Astronauts will be expected to endure over 600 spacewalks, traversing extremely challenging terrain over long periods of time. The current space suit NASA uses, known as the “Extravehicular Mobility Unit,” works by surrounding the wearer with gas, which in turn controls the atmosphere from inside the suit. In simpler terms, imagine wearing a glove in the winter that is filled with gas. Now imagine trying to tighten a bolt, with that same glove on, but you’re now weightless. While these suits allow astronauts the ability to experience space from their own personal spaceship, they do not allow an astronaut to make a simple maneuver like looking over their shoulder.

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