'Happy Spacesuit' is Designed to Keep Astronauts From Stressing Out

Thursday, 22 February 2018 - 6:31PM
Thursday, 22 February 2018 - 6:31PM
'Happy Spacesuit' is Designed to Keep Astronauts From Stressing Out
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Florida Polytechnic University
Life in outer space is not a pleasant experience. Sure, there's the fun of floating around in zero gravity, but there's also nausea, claustrophobia, and extremes of temperature and light that can make life in Earth's orbit a perpetual challenge.

Astronauts are rigorously trained to help them deal with these stressful situations, but even so, it can be hard to maintain a positive mental attitude at all times while in space. In an effort to combat these negative stressors and give astronauts an easier time of things while at work, scientists at Florida Polytechnic University are developing a new spacesuit that can regulate its environment, removing a lot of the irritants that make life in space so challenging.

The Smart Sensory Skin, as it's called, will be able to use sensors to monitor an astronaut's environment, and adjust the temperature, light levels, light color, and oxygen levels in order to make things more pleasant. It's the kind of suit you've always wished for on a particularly hot or cold day, and in theory, it should help astronauts to stay nice and chill by detecting and combating many of the little annoyances that they come across while working.

According to Arman Sargolzaei, a professor of Electrical Engineering at Florida Polytechnic:

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"It's vital for astronauts to be mentally healthy during missions and right now there's no active, real-time solution to help them when they feel stressed or anxious. This technology would provide them with immediate relief to their state of mind."
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These suits would no doubt prove popular with astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Even something as seemingly unimportant as the color of the light they're exposed to in their artificial box can be draining in the long run.

Astronauts are constantly under significant stress from a number of factors, many of which the suit won't be able to change. Zero gravity can cause headaches, eye strain, muscle atrophy, and a realignment of the spine, among other issues. It's not a lot of fun to spend too long in space, so it makes sense to try and ease this discomfort by allowing astronauts a more pleasant experience in the midst of difficult living conditions.

The suit initially started life as a freshman project undertaken by James Holland, a student at Florida Polytechnic. Now, the university has been provided a grant, and is working on the suit alongside NASA's Florida Space Research Program.

If the suit proves a success, there will no doubt be other beneficial uses for it here on Earth as well, for medical use in hospitals with patients who are susceptible to various external factors. Plus, Elon Musk would no doubt love to be able to provide this level of comfort for his space tourist customers in years to come.

The Smart Sensory Skin spacesuit could be a key part of making space travel more manageable for future astronauts, and considering that there's a current lack of psychiatrists on the International Space Station, this is probably the best possible step towards happier, healthier astronauts.
Science News