DM

Washington

The Nasa has confirmed that it plans to send the first astronauts to Mars wearing a radical new tron spacesuit.

3D printed for each astronaut, the new suit, called Z-2, will allow astronauts to walk on the Martian surface far more easily. It will also be far easier to put on - and could simply be attached to the side of a habitat module or rover without the need for an airlock.

‘We are heading for Mars; that’s what is the end goal right now for the suit,’ said Phil Stampinato of ILC Dover, the Delaware-based company making the suit for Nasa.

‘Everything that’s done to develop this suit is headed for a Mars mission, even if there is an asteroid mission or a lunar mission prior to that,’ Stampinato told a Nasa Future In-Space Operations working group, according to

Astronauts will crawl into the Z-series suits from the back, through a hatch that could even be built into landing modules, meaning there would be no need for a traditional airlock. Suitports are an alternative to airlocks, potentially allowing astronauts to enter and exit habitat modules, rovers and other structures quickly and easily without bringing dust and other contaminants inside.

‘They’re going to be suitport-compatible,’ he said. The Z-series suits are designed to allow astronauts far more flexibility than current designs used on the International Space Station. ‘We’re trying to design the new suit to accommodate both improved microgravity EVA extravehicular activity capability as well as surface capability,’ NASA spacesuit engineer Amy Ross said in a video released by the space agency.

The design was chosen for the next generation spacesuits by a public vote - and a sci-fi inspired ‘Tron’ design won. This design now will be incorporated into the final version of the suit, which is expected to be ready for testing by November 2014. Each iteration of the suit will test new technologies that one day will be used in a suit worn by the first humans to step foot on the Red Planet.

With 233,431 votes, the ‘Technology’ option has won Nasa’s Z-2 Spacesuit design challenge with just over 63% of the total vote.  Nasa’s Z-2 is the latest prototype in the agency’s Z range of spacesuits, and will be the successor to the its green and white Z-1 model unveiled in 2012. The Technology suit, the eventual winner, ‘pays homage to spacesuit achievements of the past while incorporating subtle elements of the future’.