On any given day I’d much rather sit in my birthday suit, but small-minded people force me to cover up. And if I were to be with NASA as an astronaut, flying the mile-high club, more ridiculous looking suits would make their way to me. Ah, yes these suits are essential for flight and to make the crew survive in space. So it’s fair enough that they dress up looking like dandy robots that could scare the crap out of Peanuts.

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The real news here is that NASA actually held a competition where they invited the public to help pick the most innovative – read monkey suit – cover layer design for the Z-2 prototype suit. The shortlisted designs were right out of a futuristic Manga series and had a particular theme to it. The Option A was called “Biomimicry” and took inspiration from the environment. More like the bioluminescent qualities of sea creatures that are found in the deep belly of the oceans. Elements looking like the scaly skin of fish and reptiles were also a part of the design. Highlights include segmented pleats at the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee, and electroluminescent wire across the upper torso, which is evident in low-light situation.

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The winner was Option B, a “Technology” based design. The process behind this suit cover is to acknowledge spacesuit achievements from the past as well as of the future. Extensive use of Luminex wire and light-emitting patches makes it easy for one to spot other crew members out on a spacewalk.

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Finally, Option C was based on “Trends in Society”; basically they took a look at the latest walking down the ramp in Milan and Fashion TV’s prediction for the future. Nah, just kidding! This suit uses electroluminescent wire and a bright color scheme so that it gives the feel of a sportswear and marries it with the concept of wearable technologies.

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Here’s a lowdown on NASA’s Z-2 Suit, this is a next-generation spacesuit platform that steps ahead of the Z-1 suit. There are many firsts associated with the suit, for example it is the first surface-specific planetary mobility suit to be tested in full vacuum. It is also the first time 3D human laser scans were done to develop the suit and size it. 3D-printed hardware was also a part of the game.

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As always, there is a reason why there is so much drama regarding the cover layer of a prototype suit. Apparently it is important because it protects the inner suit against abrasion and snags during the rigors of testing. So besides protection, the aim of this run is to highlight certain mobility features in the design. To aid this, it’s the first time most advanced use of impact resistant composite structures have been integrated in the upper and lower torso system. Tune in here to keep an eye on the development of this NASA project.

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