This could do wonders for space tourism (although the focus is on exploration). Not to mention science fiction movies.
Called the BioSuit, and under development at MIT, it’s…
“…a revolutionary departure from the traditional model. Instead of using gas pressurization, which exerts a force on the astronaut’s body to protect it from the vacuum of space, the suit relies on mechanical counter-pressure, which involves wrapping tight layers of material around the body. The trick is to make a suit that is skintight but stretches with the body, allowing freedom of movement.
Over the past 40 years, spacesuits have gotten progressively heavier, and they now weigh in at about 300 pounds. That bulk — much of which is due to multiple layers and the life support system coupled with the gas-pressurization — severely constrains astronauts’ movements. About 70 to 80 percent of the energy they exert while wearing the suit goes towards simply working against the suit to bend it.
“You can’t do much bending of the arms or legs in that type of suit,” Newman says.
When an astronaut is in a micro-gravity environment (for example, doing a spacewalk outside the International Space Station), working in such a massive suit is manageable, but, as Newman says, “It’s a whole different ballgame when we go to the moon or Mars, and we have to go back to walking and running, or loping.”
Another advantage to her BioSuit is safety: if a traditional spacesuit is punctured by a tiny meteorite or other object, the astronaut must return to the space station or home base immediately, before life-threatening decompression occurs. With the BioSuit, a small, isolated puncture can be wrapped much like a bandage, and the rest of the suit will be unaffected.