As humankind’s technology becomes more advanced, and the possibilities for human space travel are realised, it is important to think about what types of conditions we may encounter on the surfaces of other worlds and prepare for them.
Protection from the space elements
In the coming decades, ESA is planning not only to go to the Moon and Mars, but possibly beyond. When we land on the surface of other planets, it is important for astronauts to have spacesuits that can help them withstand the harsh conditions thrust upon them by alien environments.
These harsh conditions include extreme temperatures, radiation, high-speed debris and dust. Places such as our Moon have nights that last as long as 14 days, dropping temperatures to –170°C. The Moon has no magnetic field so cosmic radiation passes through the thin lunar atmosphere uncontested, exposing astronauts to dangerous levels of radiation. This applies to Mars as well, where days and nights are cold, and radiation can kill without proper protection.
A spacesuit must serve as a life support system that will enable cosmic explorers to safely navigate their surroundings. Destinations like the Moon and Mars will be unforgiving to ill-equipped astronauts.
Since humankind’s first visit to the Moon, the universal standard for astronauts has been NASA’s extravehicular activity (EVA) suit. This suit has been front and centre of virtually all iconic astronaut imagery that has ever been released. As we look to the future, it is time to think about the evolution of this life-support device and how it will frame and protect astronauts in the future.
ESA is holding a spacesuit design competition to allow those interested in Europe’s future in space to have their say on what it might look like, visually. The spacesuit must include essential design elements of course, such as a backpack with life support systems, a visor to see through in varying lighting conditions, and it must be a realistic, so bulky, pressurised suit. Designers do not have to worry about technical specifications as this is a visual design competition. Other elements to include are a flag with the astronaut’s nationality, a minimum of seven different layers of materials and an interface for the life support system.
You have until 28 February to submit their design. A jury consisting of design and EVA experts and an astronaut trainer will determine the most suitable designs. The designers of the five best proposals selected will be invited to the ESA European Astronaut Centre later this year.
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