The future of space suits could be in shrink wrap, not balloons

September 19, 2014 12:28 PM

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The future of space suits could be in shrink wrap, not balloons

Looked at from a certain perspective, even ultra-modern space suits look a bit archaic. They have the general aesthetic of a diving bell, like a steam-punk imagining transported into space. The diving bell itself was basically a huge pressurized balloon, a way of taking the atmosphere at the surface down into the depths of the sea, but it’s very difficult to keep a balloon inflated against the crushing pressure of the deep; eventually, the bell gave way to modern diving suits, and divers learned how to deal with the pressure changes through behavior and specialized equipment. That’s made diving both safer and easier and more accessible than ever before, and now scientists think we might be able to do the same thing for space.

A team of researchers from MIT hope to use mechanical pressure to replace the pressurization of the balloon suits we use today, making suits both far lighter and less restrictive to use. Rather than climbing into a huge suit, they would strap on this space “garment” like a onesie, and it would tight...

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