Enabling Forbidden Exploration: How Space Suits Took Humans Above and Beyond | The Financial Express

Enabling Forbidden Exploration: How Space Suits Took Humans Above and Beyond

They are made up of numerous custom-made parts created by several producers and put together by the National Aeronautics Space Agency (NASA) at their Houston headquarters.

Enabling Forbidden Exploration: How Space Suits Took Humans Above and Beyond
Image Courtesy: NASA

For the first time, the idea of creating suits that could protect a person from an unfavourable and aggressive environment for him appeared in 1775, when the French mathematician Abbot Jean-Baptiste de la Chapelle proposed creating a suit for immersion in water. In those days, no one thought about spaceships and flights to the Moon, but the name of the invention was given by the “suit”, which meant “boat-man”. The modern diving suits were initially called the space suit, and the name of the equipment has firmly entered into use.

In the 1920s, diving suits for aeronauts began to be used in England. The higher the aircraft climbed, the more difficult the conditions for pilots became: low temperatures, a sharp change in pressure, and oxygen starvation. The pressurized suit helped to solve these problems, but only up to certain heights.

Because they are also used as mobility aids when an astronaut conducts a spacewalk outside of an orbiting spacecraft, spacesuits are also referred to as Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs).

They are made up of numerous custom-made parts created by several producers and put together by the National Aeronautics Space Agency (NASA) at their Houston headquarters.

Space exploration started in the 1950s, and the first spacesuits were made available.

Over time, they have changed, becoming more complex and functional.
Currently, NASA has 17 EMUs that have been finished, each of which costs over US$10.4 million to build.

In the Soviet Union, Yevgeny Chertovsky, an engineer with the Institute of Aviation Medicine, worked on creating apparatus for working at great altitudes. He was the first to address the mobility issue in spacesuits and created about seven different variations of them.

When raised to a height, the first spacesuit models swelled, making it extremely difficult for a person inside even to bend their arm. Chertovsky added a hinge system, greatly enhancing the suit’s mobility. Chertovsky created a model of the Ch-3 spacesuit in 1936, which featured nearly all of the components found in contemporary space suits, including thermal underwear.

Onboard the ISS, the Russians currently wear modified Orlan spacesuits.
These suits have been used for more than 130 paired spacewalks since 1977.

What materials are space suits made of?

An entire range of raw materials is required to build a spacesuit. Synthetic polymers come in a wide range of varieties as fabric materials. A nylon tricot material makes up the innermost layer. An additional layer is made of the elastic wearable polymer spandex. Additionally, a layer of nylon coated with urethane is present and is used for pressurization.

A layer that resists pressure is made of polyester material called Dacron.
Neoprene, a type of sponge rubber, aluminized Mylar, Gortex, Kevlar, and Nomex are a few other synthetic materials employed.

Other raw materials besides synthetic fibres also play significant roles.
The main component of the rigid upper torso segment is fibre glass.
The filter that eliminates carbon dioxide and water vapour during a space walk is made of lithium hydroxide.

The battery that powers the suit is made of silver and zinc.
To distribute cooling water throughout the suit, plastic tubing is woven into the fabric. The shell of the helmet is made of polycarbonate material.
The electronic circuitry and suit controls are built using various other parts.

Future of space suits

In modern movies, bulky space suits have long been replaced by tight suits. However, Western engineers are considering the possibility of creating such suits with high realism. It is assumed that the suit will consist of many synthetic coils that will tightly fit the astronaut’s body, creating a cocoon while maintaining thermoregulatory and protective functions and not restricting the astronaut’s movements.

Russia sees the Orlan-MKS suit as the basis for creating its lunar suit. The suit is designed in such a way that the astronaut can put it on by himself in 5 minutes. They are also lighter than the current US space suits. Zvezda, a Russian research and development company, has begun producing space suits for Indian astronauts.

At the same time, NASA’s lunar-grade spacesuits won’t be ready for the first landing on the Moon in 2024, according to NASA’s Office of Inspector General. If necessary, SpaceX could carry it out, wrote Elon Musk on Twitter in response to the audit.

The sleek black and white spacesuits that SpaceX has already created have been worn on several space missions, but they aren’t made for extravehicular space walks, let alone navigating the hostile surface of another planet.

NASA is already working with players in the private sector to develop a suit that might be ready by 2024.

According to a recent statement, the agency published a draft request for proposal (RFP) in July 2021, asking businesses to develop commercially produced spacesuits and support services for spacewalks on the International Space Station.

Humans will be able to explore the lunar surface with the help of the new spacesuits, which will also enable new spacewalking abilities away from the International Space Station.

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