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Science
28 Apr 2017

NASA spacesuits are outdated and pose severe risk, says report

NASA's spacesuits severely need an update

NASA is spending nearly $200 million on new spacesuits but by the time they arrive it might be too late.

A report by NASA's inspector general has raised concern over shortage of spacesuits.

Only 11 of 18 life support backpacks are still working and they will not last until the retirement date of the Space Station in 2024, let alone survive a 2028 extension.

In context

NASA's spacesuits severely need an update
NASA still uses 40 years old spacesuits

Old spacesuits

NASA still uses 40 years old spacesuits

Reports of 3,400 minor problems pertaining to these spacesuits have surfaced since its development.

Astronauts often complain about the lack of visibility through the helmet, stiff gloves and an overall poor design and functionality.

The suits were designed and developed in the 1970s, for a 15 years use, but it has now been 40 years and the designs have remained almost unchanged.

Accidents

Spacesuits that threaten rather than protecting astronaut's life

In 1965 during the first ever space-walk, Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov's spacesuit swelled up so much that he couldn't walk back to the Station. Finally by loosening some seals from the suit he was able to return.

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano almost drowned when his cooling garment leaked during a space-walk, blocking his face. The astronaut had to feel and guess his way back.

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Next generation spacesuit plans by NASA

Next-gen spacesuits

Next generation spacesuit plans by NASA

However, there is a sigh of relief as a recent audit report revealed that NASA is working on Orion Crew Survival System spacesuit (OCSS).

The next-gen spacesuit is being developed in three stages. One, for use in the space station, second for missions around the moon and the third, for use on Mars.

However, they will not be ready before 2021.

New fabric

NASA comes up with new fabric for spacesuits

NASA intends to use a new 3D-printed metal fabric which enables shape change, in the spacesuits and also to act as shields and insulation for spacecrafts.

On the uneven terrains of some planets, where it is difficult to walk or hold on to the surface, this fabric would facilitate folding of the suit, making it easier to navigate through hostile unknown terrains.

Boeing launches new commercial  spacesuit

Boeing spacesuits

Boeing launches new commercial spacesuit

Boeing in its attempt to take the lead in commercial crewed orbital missions, has launched their new spacesuit made in association with David Clark Company, which makes flight and aviation suits.

The spacesuits are designed to suit the astronauts who will be on board CST-100 Starliner, which is a commercially crewed spacecraft slated to fly next year on its maiden mission.

The amazing Peggy Watson

NASA's next space-walk is scheduled on May 12, by astronaut Peggy Whitson, who has made a record by space-walking for eight times and also became the first astronaut to do a 4k live streaming from space.

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