How NASA-backed Mars ‘suit of the future’ will work ‘like second skin’ for astronauts

A mechanical counter-pressure (MCP) suit or space activity suit (SAS) is an experimental spacesuit which applies stable pressure against the skin by means of skintight elastic garments, unlike conventional spacesuits which use air pressure to compress the human body. The idea for an SAS suit was first floated by the United States Air Force in the Fifties and then again in the Sixties. However, the possibility has been given a new lease of life thanks to a new advance.

The Bio-Suit is an experimental space activity suit under construction at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the direction of professor Dava Newman, with support from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts.

Professor Newman unveiled her suit during Amazon Prime’s Tomorrow’s World series.

She said last year: “So the Bio Suit is an MIT patented suit of the future, it’s a space suit for the Moon or Mars. 

“I’m trying to give you, as an astronaut, maximum mobility, flexibility, it’s going to be extreme exploration when we get to Mars.

“We’re going there to search for life so you have to be outside, in your suits, on your knees, think of an extreme athlete.”

The narrator of the series explained the suit in more detail.

She said: “Traditional space suits are inflatable vessels for one person.

“They weigh over 140 kilos, impede movement and have to be pressurised like a plane cabin.

“The Bio Suit, however, doesn’t have the same constraints.”

READ MORE: Why NASA is probing ‘greatest discovery of humankind’ on Mars

On October 8, 2015, NASA published its strategy for human exploration and colonisation of Mars, the concept operates through three distinct phases leading up to fully sustained civilisation on the Red Planet, which they hope to implement sometime in the mid-2030s. 

The first stage, already under way, is the “Earth Reliant” phase, this will continue to use the International Space Station until 2024, validating deep space technologies and studying the effects of long-duration space missions on the human body.  

The second stage, “Proving Ground,” ventures into cislunar space for most of its tasks, to test deep-space habitation facilities, and validate capabilities required for human exploration of Mars. 

Finally, phase three, the “Earth Independent” stage includes long-term missions on the Red Planet with surface habitats that only require routine maintenance, and the harvesting of Martian resources for fuel, water, and building materials. 

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