NASA has revealed its spacesuit of the future, the Z-2, and the space agency wants the public’s help in developing the first prototype. The Z-2 spacesuit features three choices that look like something a child would dream up which means it is perfect for the future of space exploration.
NASA announced the public vote on the Z-2 suit on Monday and the spacesuits feature some unique design choices that separate it from previous designs. NASA, ILC Dover and Philadelphia worked on the design for the Z-2 spacesuit. ILC has worked with NASA to develop the spacesuits used in the Apollo, shuttle and International Space Station missions.
Each spacesuit design has incorporated new innovations based on the demands of the mission. The Apollo spacesuits had to account for lunar dust, radiation and provided astronauts with oxygen; the shuttle suits had an improved glove design and individual components for better movement; and the ISS suits continued to improve movement and glove response and increased the longevity of the suit.
The new Z-2 spacesuit will have to contend with new challenges as NASA is planning to use these suits for deep space exploration. As noted by Time in 2012, the Z-1 prototype featured increased radiation protection as well as a back panel that can attach to the exterior of spacecraft to prevent dust from entering the craft.
NASA has improved the design for the Z-2 to include a hard-shell upper torso, 3D-printed elements to tailor the suit to the astronaut as well as a unique cover that can be used for identification and increased durability. According to the space agency, “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.”
The first Z-2 design, dubbed “Biomimicry,” gets its inspiration from the ocean, fish and reptiles and features, “segmented pleats at the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee, and electroluminescent wire across the upper torso, which becomes apparent in reduced light.”
The “Technology” Z-2 design has lit panels for better identification and with a nod to previous spacesuit designs. “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,” says NASA.
For the final design, “Trends in Society,” NASA is looking to the future of clothing and wearable tech for inspiration. According to NASA, this desing “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.”
The public can vote on which design will be built as the Z-2 prototype and voting will end on April 15 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. NASA plans to build the first Z-2 spacesuit prototype by November 2014.