Need to Test a Space Suit? Head to Iceland

Need to Test a Space Suit? Head to Iceland

Now researchers have returned to Iceland with an upgraded version of the suit, dubbed the MS1.5, to be put by its paces too. This time the goal of the research, conducted by the ISA in partnership with the private company AdventureX, was to test some of the suit’s elements with NASA’s Artemis program in mind, which is hoped to send humans back to the lunar surface later this decade.

Activities included climbing in and out of lava tubes and collecting samples from the walls, such as bacteria, that might be a important of lunar missions. The upgraded suit also tested new carbon dioxide sensors and a biometric undergarment that recorded data from the astronauts, including their heart rate and breathing rate. Some issues arose; the visor experienced condensation from the temperature swings, for example, which will likely be more extreme on the moon.

Expeditions focused on looking for subsurface ice and exploring lava tubes, both features and activities that will likely form part of future Moon and Mars missions.Photograph: Vincent Fourrnier

The goal was to push the suit to its limits and see how it dealt with Iceland’s rare surroundings. Composed of a combination of nylon, aluminum, and steel, and equipped with utilities such as drinking water and a radio, the suit is designed to mimic being in the real thing while taking the limitations of being on Earth into account. “The suit is a spacesuit simulator,” says Michael Lye from the RISD, who designed the suit. “It’s not a pressurized suit you would use on the moon or Mars. It’s for use here on Earth.”

The data from the excursion will be used to design a true successor to the MS1, the MS2, which will be tested at a future date. One of the changes will be to “increase the level of fidelity in the joints to more closely mimic the torque required to flex your elbow or bend your knee,” says Lye. Perhaps that’s a characterize an astronaut, bending down to pick up an intriguing lunar rock, might make use of one day soon.

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