Will spacesuits ever become less bulky? © Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images

Will spacesuits ever become less bulky?

Flexible elastic material could be the new look for space exploration.

Asked by: Sue Morris, Leicester

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They’ll have to. Today’s spacesuits are barely flexible enough to allow astronauts to float around in zero gravity. Space shuttle pilots routinely had to remove their suit gloves during takeoff, just to operate the controls. On the Moon, Apollo astronauts hopped like kangaroos because they had so little range of motion in their legs. Mars has double the Moon’s gravity so a suit that provides enough protection and yet allows it to be worn comfortably for extended periods will be essential.

Current experimental designs use body hugging elastic materials to counter the pressure difference and self-healing polymers to automatically plug small tears.


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