Jennifer Chu | July 1, 2015
Establishing a human colony on mars will require exceptional qualities in an explorer, not least of which are ingenuity, a collaborative spirit, and the iron will of a true pioneer. But it will also require a good suit.
MIT’s Dava Newman says colonists will have to be “extreme athlete explorers”—always ready to hop on a rover, climb down a crevasse, or comb through a crater for potential resources. And such physical tasks would be extremely difficult to carry out while wearing traditional heavy, puffy space suits. Today’s suits, which use gas to create the pressure needed in zero gravity, haven’t evolved much since Buzz Aldrin, ScD ’63, and Neil Armstrong made their legendary moonwalk.
“Those were great life-support systems and suits for 40 years ago, but [the astronauts] really couldn’t bend down and take measurements,” says Newman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and of engineering systems. “Science wasn’t the purpose then, but if we ever get back to the moon or Mars, it’s all about doing science. You want shirtsleeve mobility, to get as much science as you can out of these pretty hostile environments.”