NASA's next spacesuit is currently up for public voting—and the weird new designs are unlike anything you've seen from NASA before. Drawing on ideas from bioluminescence, contemporary sportswear, and some speculation on the street fashions of tomorrow, whichever suit gets built will change our image of astronauts forever.
The Z-2 suit is the newest prototype in the Z-series, NASA's next-generation spacesuit platform. After creating the Z-1 prototype, the U.S. space agency wants you to get involved to the development process, because they have three quite different design concepts—and, some times, professionals need a little help from laypeople, too.
After the positive response to the Z-1 suit's visual design we received, we wanted to take the opportunity to provide this new suit with an equally memorable appearance. The cover layer of a prototype suit is important as it serves to protect the suit against abrasion and snags during the rigors of testing. With the Z-2, we're looking forward to employing cover layer design elements never used in a spacesuit before. The designs shown were produced in collaboration with ILC, the primary suit vendor and Philadelphia University. The designs were created with the intent to protect the suit and to highlight certain mobility features to aid suit testing. To take it a step further, we are leaving it up you, the public, to choose which of three candidates will be built.
So here is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: choose your favorite design over at NASA's voting page! Voting is open through April 15, 2014 at 11:59pm EDT.
Here are the three new suit designs (concept images and descriptions are all from NASA).
This suit draws from an environment with many parallels to the harshness of space: the world's oceans. Mirroring the bioluminescent qualities of aquatic creatures found at incredible depths, and the scaly skin of fish and reptiles found across the globe, this design reflects the qualities that protect some of Earth's toughest creatures.
The design specifically includes segmented pleats at the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee, and electroluminescent wire across the upper torso, which becomes apparent in reduced light.
It pays homage to spacesuit achievements of the past while incorporating subtle elements of the future. By using Luminex wire and light-emitting patches, this design puts a new spin on spacewalking standards such as ways to identify crew members.
The design specifically includes electroluminescent wire and patches across the upper and lower torso, exposed rotating bearings, collapsing pleats for mobility and highlighted movement, and abrasion resistant panels on the lower torso.
"Trends in Society"
[Or you could say: normcore.] It is reflective of what every day clothes may look like in the not too distant future. This suit uses electroluminescent wire and a bright color scheme to mimic the appearance of sportswear and the emerging world of wearable technologies.
The design specifically includes gore pleats with contrast stitching throughout to highlight mobility, an exposed bearing at the hip, and electroluminescent wire and patches of varying styles across both the upper and lower torso.