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Mars Space Suit Trials in North Dakota 124

AbsoluteZero writes to tell us Space.com is reporting that a new spacesuit prototype being designed for Mars exploration is currently being tested in North Dakota. From the article: "The Mars spacesuit is the culmination of 14 months of work by faculty and students with the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium, which received $100,000 from NASA to develop the prototype. The local public is invited to view the Mars spacesuit in action on Sat. May 6, weather permitting, at its North Dakota test site."
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Mars Space Suit Trials in North Dakota

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  • Confusion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Umbral Blot ( 737704 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @05:34AM (#15280509) Homepage
    I am a bit confused, they will cancel the test if there is bad weather? It's a spacesuit, it shouldn't be affected by bad weather, and if it is it shouldn't be used in planetary exploration. Otherwise you end up with the following situation: "I would have been the first man to set foot on mars, but it was windy out, so we went home".
    • I dont know about you, but I'd rather not stand outside during a lightning storm in a big suit with lots of nice metal on it.
      • by Gnavpot ( 708731 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @06:06AM (#15280573)
        I dont know about you, but I'd rather not stand outside during a lightning storm in a big suit with lots of nice metal on it.
        I dont know about you, but I'd rather not stand outside during a lightning storm in a big suit withOUT lots of nice metal on it.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07, 2006 @05:42AM (#15280530)
      It's a spacesuit, it shouldn't be affected by bad weather

      Because if there's one thing a mars space suit needs, it's the ability to function in a rainstorm?
    • ...a series of challenges, including mock-Martian hikes, sample collections and - this Saturday - a simulated sandstorm.

      No idea how they're planning to simulate a sandstorm, but I can imagine any number of weather conditions that would undoubtedly make it tricky.
      • If they're already in a sandy place, they probably will just use big fans like they do on movie sets. It doesn't have to be a huge sandstorm. Just a vigorous one in the area immediately around the person in the suit.

        If it's not already sandy, they can probably put piles of sand in front of the fan.
    • Re:Confusion (Score:4, Insightful)

      by allanc ( 25681 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @06:09AM (#15280576) Homepage
      Because not everyone's going to be wearing a space suit.

      (I.e., if the weather's crappy, the guy in the suit will be fine, but the spectators won't be having much fun)
    • Because it doesn't rain on mars.
    • Re:Confusion (Score:4, Informative)

      by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @06:48AM (#15280640) Homepage
      Most likely, they were testing the suit by walking up partial cliffs and very rocky areas as indicated by the photos. Doing this in rainy weather makes for a slippery experience. At the very least, you slip and fall on your ass. At the worst, you break your neck.

    • I live in North Dakota. Weather here is a bit, um, interesting. We've had blizzards in May before.
    • I am a bit confused, they will cancel the test if there is bad weather? It's a spacesuit, it shouldn't be affected by bad weather

      Well first off, I only skimmed the article, but I have a classmate working on part of the project at NDSU here. My first thought, though, is that it's a space suit... it doesn't rain in space, it just has to withstand the pressure and the occasional impact by high volecity objects. It also doesn't rain water on Mars, but with the atmosphere there could be something similar to look
    • LEELA: How many atmospheres of pressure can the ship withstand? PROFESSOR: Well it's a spaceship, so I'd say anywhere between zero and one
    • The summary said the test would go on 'weather permiting' That doesn't necessarily mean they need good weather, in fact they may be hoping for cfold weather (which would be why they were in ND) but it could be too hot to simulate martian conditions. I dont thenk Mars gets to 100F, but it is possible in ND (as well as the cold conditions more typical to Mars)
    • While Mars and North Dakota are similar in that they are barren and lifeless, you must understand that the conditions to be expected in the two locations must be engineered against in completely different ways.

      Mars: <14 psia, almost no humidity, almost no atmospheric movement

      North Dakota: 13-15 psia, depending on the >=10% humidity, plenty of atmospheric movement (wind), precipitation is even possible.

      Besides, it only takes one sharp thing carried by the wind to reduce a multi-thousand dollar space su
  • Who're they kidding? It's got the most brutal weather of the contiguous 48 US states. Is this some sort of gag?
    • It was in the low 70's (F) and sunny. No problem. November through March, you never know.
    • which would be quite tame compared to Mars... winds, dust storms, tornadoes etc...
    • No, the gag is that people are invited on May 6th, but this wasn't posted until the 7th...

    • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @06:19AM (#15280594)
      Pffft! North Dakota weather is positively TEMPERATE compared to the place that has a sign that reads:

      US Forest Service

      STOP

      THE AREA AHEAD HAS THE WORST WEATHER IN AMERICA. MANY HAVE DIED THERE FROM EXPOSURE, EVEN IN THE SUMMER. TURN BACK NOW IF THE WEATHER IS BAD.

      Mount Washington has hurricane force winds and sub-freezing temperatures _every month of the year_. The highest wind speed over land ever recorded was measured from the summit at 231MPH before the anemometer was destroyed. The number of days of hurricane force winds average 110 days/year. In January, that means every 3 out of 4 days.

      Deaths: http://www.mountwashington.com/deaths/index.html [mountwashington.com]

      North Dakota doesn't even come close.

      --

      BMO

      • Pffft! North Dakota weather is positively TEMPERATE compared to the place that has a sign that reads:

        US Forest Service

        STOP

        THE AREA AHEAD HAS THE WORST WEATHER IN AMERICA. MANY HAVE DIED THERE FROM EXPOSURE, EVEN IN THE SUMMER. TURN BACK NOW IF THE WEATHER IS BAD.

        While your point is well taken, and it is nasty weather, the number of deaths isn't as bad as you point out. Look at the causes; very few are from exposure (hypothermia), most are from other causes not directly related to the weather (but no dou

        • "very few are from exposure (hypothermia)"

          Really?

          (This one has the same data, roughly, but it's organized better for counting)

          http://www.mountwashington.org/about/visitor/survi ving.php [mountwashington.org]

          Falls: 41
          Hypothermia: 29
          "Natural Causes" i.e., heart attacks and other distress: 17
          Avalanches: 11
          Aircraft deaths: 10
          Rail (ALL) related: 9
          Falling ice: 5
          Slideboards: 4 (Prohibited after 1919)
          "Carriages" horse-drawn and auto: 2
          Disappearances: 1
          (on original page) Murder: 1
          (on original page -since 2002-) 2 falls, one hypothermia.

          I
          • Yes, but hypothermia still only covers 28% of the deaths. The majority are accounted for by other causes.

            Personally, I'm going to stay well away from any area with extreme cold temperatures where there's almost a 75% chance that I'll die from something other than the cold. Sure, I'm not likely to die in a plane crash while climbing a mountain on foot, but you can't be too careful!
            • "Yes, but hypothermia still only covers 28% of the deaths. The majority are accounted for by other causes."

              Yes, but those other deaths are of the "shit happens" type, mostly. I'm not sure what your point is anymore. Using your logic, don't leave the house...and don't bathe, you might slip.

              Now that I think of it...this _is_ slashdot.

              "Personally, I'm going to stay well away from any area with extreme cold temperatures where there's almost a 75% chance that I'll die from something other than the cold. Sure,
              • "I'm not sure what your point is anymore."

                Check the authors, I'm not the original one. My point was that the "very few" was technically not very far off.

                "Now you're being silly."

                Yes, yes I am. Odd that you insisted on responding seriously even after realizing that.

                Of course, the fact still remains that most of the deaths weren't hypothermia. ;)
          • Is it me or are the people of MT washington really proud on their death rate, publishing all this data on their website. I already found that they're setting up a memorial part with details about the deaths: http://www.mountwashington.com/deaths/details.htm l [mountwashington.com].

            Maybe they should join with the people from nelson rocks [slashdot.org] in their quest to make their place really unattractive to tourists.

            • "Is it me or are the people of MT washington really proud on their death rate, publishing all this data on their website."

              And as you can see, people _still_ Darwin themselves, even in these days. You can't shout it loud enough, it seems. Even with all the yellow warning signs on the mountain itself.

              --
              BMO
      • north dakota has the worst weather region with the most favourable logistics. sure, mt. washington is worse; but does it have all the required industry infrastructure in a nearby region that would make scientific research feasible? no point going up there if you can't overnight fedex yourself something from a lab nearby ..
        • "mt. washington is worse; but does it have all the required industry infrastructure in a nearby region that would make scientific research feasible? no point going up there if you can't overnight fedex yourself something from a lab nearby .."

          First off, I was disputing the point the OP said about North Dakota having the "worst weather in the contiguous 48", which it doesn't, by far. And secondly, Mount Washington isn't exactly remote. Due to a freak of geology, it's a relatively high peak surrounded by muc

      • Yeah? But Fargo may one of the few places in the U.S. where you can freeze to death on a metropolitan interstate off-ramp. They started volunteer 4-wheel-drive patrols to try to avoid that sort of thing happening again.

        I do question May 6 however. Weather.com says it is 61F at 10:00 a.m. in Bismarck as I write. January 6 would be more appropriate at plus or minus 0F.
         
        • "But Fargo may one of the few places in the U.S. where you can freeze to death on a metropolitan interstate off-ramp"

          Fargo is metropolitan?

          "They started volunteer 4-wheel-drive patrols to try to avoid that sort of thing happening again"

          In metropolitian areas? BMO looks around and tries to wrap his head around the concept of metropolitan areas where you might freeze to death on a highway ramp. Jeez, do that here and you'll get a tow and a ticket for blocking traffic.

          --
          BMO
          • I see that you enjoy being pejorative towards ND. On behalf of the residents of Fargo, we're cautiously optimistic that you're planning on staying in Boston. People that can tolerate or even thrive in New England (especially the Peoples Republic of Massechussets -- there's me returning the favor) probably can't tolerate Fargo, so I'd guess that you and I have made the correct decisions about where each of us should live, respectively :)

            Fwiw, the Fargo/Moorhead/WestFargo "metro area" has something like 180
            • "I see that you enjoy being pejorative towards ND"

              Only smirkingly. ;-D

              "you're planning on staying in Boston. "

              Oh, no, I'd never live in Boston. I live about a mile south of Providence, RI. I actually grew up next to a farm, if you can believe that. I don't wanna be a Masshole.

              "People move to Fargo from outlying areas and some of them can't handle the size."

              I find that's what it's like in the small cities in the lower Ontario peninsula. Once you're outside of places like the Toronto Metro Area, it's a lo
      • What does that have to do with the article?

        Are you suggesting that they have the university students flown to an area to test something in a possibly life-threatening environment?

    • When taken aggregately, state wide, it certainly is one of the coldest places. We regularly stay in the -30F range for a couple days at a time, and then we'll have 30mph winds that go with it. Fyi, exposed skin in those conditions isn't good for more than a couple of minutes until its frostbitten. When I walk from my car in the parking lot to my building entrance, wearing a full face mask with eyeholes, i have a headache by the time i get to the door, and the bridge of my nose is numb.

      There are days that
  • by Carpe PM ( 754778 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @05:39AM (#15280523)
    I would have been there, since I live in North Dakota, but oddly enough I was in outer space at the time. How ironic.
  • by Tx ( 96709 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @05:45AM (#15280536) Journal
    "We wanted to really concentrate on the suit to improve mobility and to create a planetary spacesuit instead one for zero [gravity],"

    Surely if it's used in space, it's a spacesuit. But if it's for use on a planet rather than in space, it should be called something else. I propose we call it a Hazardous EnVironment or HEV suit ;).
    • Gordon Freeman, is that you?
    • Surely not!

      A metallic planetary suit for Hazardous EnVIronmets would be a HEVI suit.

      Why bother! BushCo NASA funding means a Mars environmental suit field
      tested in North Dakota (you ARE kidding, right?) and deployed in a Utah
      desert soundstage. There will be no USA/NASA manned trip to Mars, let
      alone back to the Moon. But it will likely be offshore outsourced to a PRC -
      based private enterprise space corporation in alliance with PRC real estate
      developers, using the interest on current/future USA trade defic
    • And when it's used in North Dakota, it's a North Dakotasuit, right?
  • Joints (Score:5, Informative)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @05:51AM (#15280546) Homepage Journal

    There is a lot of comment in the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal [nasa.gov] about future planetary space suits. Comments from the moon walkers tend to be that engineers today are trying to solve the wrong problems. People assume that the apollo suits were not mobile enough, in fact they were, but the joints in suits were a maintenance nightmare. So if a future suit is more complex because of this supposed moblity requirement then it will be harder to keep it working for a month on Mars.

    TFA doesn't say how they plan to improve mobility. They are only pressurising this suit to 1 PSI, about a quarter of what is required. I would like to see them work on the PLSS system as well. Lunar suits were limited to seven hours outside, but the tanks in the back pack were filled by high pressure tanks in the LM descent stage. If oxygen is to be extracted from water during the mission a lot of energy will have to be put into pressurising the PLSS tanks (to 1000 PSI, more would be better) while on the surface.

    One of the limiting factors in EVA time will be electrical power. Energy is going to be needed to heat the hands and feet while outside. If a way can be found to distribute heat between to torso and the extremities while outside then power won't be needed for this. Perhaps a liquid cooled garment can be used to distribute heat to cold parts of the body.

    Its good to see people working on this kind of thing. Its a pity that there aren't going to be any rides to mars in the forseeable future.

    • Re:Joints (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Oldsmobile ( 930596 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @06:01AM (#15280566) Journal
      "They are only pressurising this suit to 1 PSI, about a quarter of what is required."

      This raises questions about "ballooning". When a suit is pressurised, it balloons out and soon our intrepid space traveller is walking and looking like the Michelin man. This can of course be solved by making the suit out of hard materials, but probably increases complexity.

      I do agree with parent, that making it as simple as possible should be a priority. Those things will have to be maintained with simple tools and thus should be made foolproof.
      • I really hope we don't need foolproof items for our first spacesuits (and people within them) going to Mars...
      • We had working hardsuit [nasa.gov] designs in the 1960s. I've seen one on display at some museum someplace, think it was the SJ Technology museum. We also regularly use them in diving [navy.mil]. Obviously a whole different set of problems, but you can dive to 2,000 feet in the one linked above...
    • There is a lot of comment in the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal about future planetary space suits. Comments from the moon walkers tend to be that engineers today are trying to solve the wrong problems. People assume that the apollo suits were not mobile enough, in fact they were, but the joints in suits were a maintenance nightmare. So if a future suit is more complex because of this supposed moblity requirement then it will be harder to keep it working for a month on Mars.

      I'm not sure I agree with th

      • Re:Joints (Score:5, Informative)

        by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @07:05AM (#15280655) Homepage Journal
        The original apollo era EVA suits were quite mobility limiting.

        My post was based on these comments [nasa.gov] by Dave Scott.

        [Scott - "It was probably due to the suit fit. I don't know how much time other people spent, but I spent a fair amount of time getting suits fitted, from early days. I was going to do an EVA on Gemini VIII. I spent a lot of time on the Gemini suit, getting it fitted, because one of the problems that Ed White had (on Gemini IV) was mobility. So they felt that if you had a proper fit, then you had better mobility. So I spent a lot of time with the suit guys, and they spent a lot of time with me. And I had good mobility. And that's why, today, when you look at the suits, they're trying to build with all these joints and I think they're missing the point. I think if you take this design and fit it properly, it's fine. I mean, you don't really need to bend over much, but I don't remember any conscious problem in bending over. Certainly it wasn't effortless but, on the other hand, it didn't require a big deal. You want to bend over, you go bend over. But I have to give it to the suit guys; they fit me very well. They did a good job tailoring the suit, which probably costs a lot less than building a suit with twenty joints, or whatever they're trying to do. (Guffaws)"]
      • Re:Joints (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dynamo52 ( 890601 )
        What erosion processes have existed in the past on mars, how long ago and are any still present in sufficient quantity to yield less "sticky dust?"

        I would expect that a Martian dust storm possesses the requisite erosion capabilities you mention

    • Darn right they're trying to solve the wrong problems ...

      They're trying to make suits for men that will make them more like robots. We don't need men for planetary exploration. All we need is robots. They're cheaper.

      $100,000 is a waste of money pursuant to a 2 trillion dollar project that should never happen until we can figure out a way to make earth to orbit transport cheaper. A Mars mission is nothing more than an expensive joyride.

      NASA's core mission of space exploration is perfectly suited to robot
  • I would go but.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SillySnake ( 727102 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @05:58AM (#15280561)
    May 6th was yesterday. I'm a big fan of Slashdot, and usually disagree with people that bad mouth editors and what not. I don't troll about speling or gramur.. but not knowing what day it is?
    The funny thing is, that this has happened to me twice today already.. Heard a radio ad for a concert on May the 6th on my way home from a post midnight Taco Bell run.. Crazyness.
    • Even informing us on the day would have been enough notice. I mean, i'm in Australia, but I can ping a server in North Dakota in under a second, easy.
    • It's only been May 7th for 52 minutes in the Samoa time zone. In 8 minutes, it will be May 8th in Japan. Not every slashdot post originates in the US.
    • Oh but come on... when has NASA done anything on time?

      I think they should be more concerned about the launch vehicle *from mars* to bring the folks back. We have enough trouble taking off from earth... and we're here to do stuff to hopefully get it right. I wonder what the betting line will be on a successful launch from mars for the return trip.
  • developing a craft that can go to mars more than 40 years after we made it to the moon?
    • They can't do that, because first they have to build way to get up into orbit, but all the money they have is being sucked up by the Space Station and the Shuttle. And if they ever get those developed, G.W.Bush said we should go to the moon FIRST and that is going to take like 20 years and suck up all the cash and by the time they FINALLY get around to planning the Mars mission the US is going to be a totally broke third world country being totally pushed around by China and India.

      IMHO they should just drop
  • by bufalo_1973 ( 898479 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @06:34AM (#15280622) Homepage
    I think they should test it in Antartica, not in North Dakota. Mars is NOT a hot desert but a cold one (mean surface temperature: 210 Kelvin). And I remember some images of a place in Antartica that were just like Mars except for the atmosphere.
    • by Ebirah ( 528097 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @06:55AM (#15280645) Homepage
      Using the dry valleys of Antarctica would push up the cost of testing considerably. While they do approach Martian temperatures more closely than most terrestrial sites, the environment is predominantly bare rock, and the atmospheric pressure is normal for Earth.

      So they only really (approximately) satisfy one of the conditions (temperature) that needs to be tested, which can probably be dealt with just as well (and much more cost-effectively) in a large refrigerator. The suit's handling of Martian atmospheric pressure can't really be tested in any natural terrestrial environment. I suspect North Dakota probably provides an adequate facsimile of Martian terrain, though (and at a reasonable price).

    • I'm not sure this is so much an actual test as it is a public demonstration. What with inviting people to view it and all, it seems more PR than science. Not that that's a bad thing - I assume there's been plenty of scientific testing leading up to this point.
    • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @09:17AM (#15280882) Homepage
      I think they should test it in Antartica, not in North Dakota.

      They probably wanted to test it in an environment without a lot of people. So North Dakota won.

    • NoDak weather in May is about the same as Northern California. Upper 60's & low 70's, fairly dry but with some chance of rain - maybe warmer in the Badlands. No I think it is the rugged conditions - babyhead rock gravel, dry dusty terrain with very little vegetation, loose and steep slopes, that made for choice of testing location. The article is scant on this but I surmise they're testing mobility not ability to handle exposure.
  • It looks like the whole suit is pressurized. Is there actually any need for this or could the material be permeable like with a scuba diving suit?
    That way there wouldn't be any problems with the joints, and a small rip would not cause much of a problem.
    • Re:Pressurized? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Tango42 ( 662363 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @07:29AM (#15280699)
      The human body needs pressure to prevent liquids from boiling, gasses coming out out solution in the blood (the bends), etc.

      The pressure on Mars is effectively zero.
      • Re:Pressurized? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 07, 2006 @11:31AM (#15281304)
        Gas pressure isn't the only way to provide the pressure to the human body.

        That pressure can also be applied mechanically, by tensioned materials.

        Check out the Bio-suit [mit.edu] research at MIT.
        • Re:Pressurized? (Score:3, Informative)

          by excaliber19 ( 750206 )
          Exactly. Mod parent up. A suit can provide pressure via tension all over the body. A full helmet or scuba-like breathing apparatus can provide oxygen. There is no need to pressurize the entire suit, its just a waste of energy and makes things needlessly difficult (less flexible, worrying about tears, etc etc).

          Assuming a person did get a small tear on a 'tension suit', the worst that would happen is very bad bruising. The ripped area would be exposed to the environment (low pressure) which would pull th
          • How would you regulate temperature in such a suit? It would be like wearing skintight PVC over your whole body. Skin needs to sweat etc. Also, the body is hardly a good shape - a small pocket of air could mess the whole thing up - it would need to be designed to cope with the pressure even if it wasn't designed to be pressurised.

            It might be practicle for very short periods, but not for hours of EVA.
            • I would assume that only the innermost layer would be skintight, taking care of the pressure problem. I bet it could be extremely permeable; it's an interesting materials science problem to find a material that could provide the correct tension and yet allow the skin to breathe.

              I think additional layers on top of the inner skintight layer could take care of thermal and radiation problems. These layers would be like wearing regular clothing, because there would be no need to pressurize it. However, it
              • I think you need to put on a layer of longjohns, then squeeze a skinsuit one size too small over it as an experiment. The practical aspect is you have to mow your lawn in this getup and collect "samples".

                After you've peeled (or cut) yourself free of this arrangment, you should know the error of your thinkin.

                • Well - it's no fun to mow your lawn in a scuba suit, either.
                  But compared to a pressurized suit where you can hardly bend
                  the joints, it should be like a stroll int the park.

                  • I'm thinking of the effect this will have on your skin. I'll take the pressurized suit any day over a overly tight scuba suit.

                    What is really needed in this cases are articulated joints so you're not trying to "bend" a balloon that you happen to be wearing.
          • ...

            And if the skin ruptured, than your blood would drain with no possibility of clotting and you would die.

            Besides, after wearing knee braces, I'm not sure that astronauts would appreciate the amount of chafing that such a suit would cause.

            • Horror movies are not a good source for scientific information.
              Have a look at this page about vacuum exposure [nasa.gov].

              • I don't base this assertion on horror movies, I base it on physics. If you have an open wound and you apply a vaccum to it, it will suck out your blood with no chance of coagulation since the blood will not pool but rather will keep on pouring.

                The rate of blood flow would be scrictly a function of your blood pressure vs the pressure of the outside air plus the effective presure applied to the rest of your body. Since you will be constricting every other part of the body with a pressure suit, but will squi
          • Haha, i read it is as "tears" as in crying tears.
    • Mars atmosphere is quite a bit thinner than Earth's; about one percent as thick to be exact. A simple Google search would have told you this: http://starryskies.com/solar_system/mars/martian_a tmosphere.html [starryskies.com] Plus, Mars atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide (95 percent) which would suffocate a person in a short period of time.
  • why anyone would take a space suit to court. Let alone in North Dakota! Or maybe someone is suing the Space around Mars, hence "space suit".
  • by OzPhIsH ( 560038 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @08:51AM (#15280833) Journal
    To me this makes perfect sense, as they only have to really be sure the suit will work at the location that the landing will be filmed at.
  • It doesn't look much different to any other spacesuits.
  • by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @09:22AM (#15280892)
    if we can't get them to Mars alive? As far as I know, they still haven't come up with a way to protect people from the year-long travel's exposure to radiation. I think the trip would register somewhere near the maximum allowed by NASA guidelines (which is a lot higher than your average Joe gets), and that's assuming there's not some sort of solar event along the way. You get a singificant solar event, and everyone is going to start glowing in the dark for the last few minutes of their lives.

    So, a space suit? That's easy. Build a safe ship. That's what I want to see. I don't think we're anywhere near doing that.

    And that doesn't even address the issue of bone and muscle degeneration which from over a 1 year period in space and a year and a half in reduced gravity will be pretty significant. It's the bones that are the real problem. There are some possible medical treatments that might help, but at the moment, nothing that's going to be able to deal with the problem on that scale. I guess that's one of the disadvantages of being an adaptable species.

    We got to the moon because the entire country was focused on it. Let's face it, the general public could really care less about a manned trip to Mars. They certainly don't care as much as they did back in the early Apollo days. And without that sort of public commitment, this just isn't going to happen anytime in the next few decades. NASA has a dwindling budget and the public doesn't really care. You simply can't go to Mars like that and expect to bring the crew home.

    I'm all for going to Mars, but I'm also all for bringing the crew back in one piece. Without that, it's simply not worth it.
    • by Howzer ( 580315 ) * <grabshot AT hotmail DOT com> on Sunday May 07, 2006 @01:21PM (#15281694) Homepage Journal
      It seems like every time there's a Slashdot story on Mars, someone runs around like Chicken Little shouting "The Radiation! The Radiation!"

      Of course, as anyone with any real interest in the topic would quickly find out, it's not in any way, shape, or form, a mission-stopper.

      There's so much research out there [google.com] about this! Even NASA [nsbri.org] - sensibly conservative and cranking up the "danger" to manufacture a mission for the ISS ("Seeing what radiation in space does" as if we don't know from 30+ years of space flight) - isn't as strident as some people who should search before they post.

      I guess if the New York Times can get "space radiation" wrong, as they did in 2003, then Slashdot denizens can too, but I foolishly expect more tech-aware people here. Here's the real deal on Mars Mission radiation from the Mars Society [marssociety.org] based on real science, not on half-remembered sci-fi movies.

      To the second point, "bone and muscle degeneration", there are two sets of data on this. First, the very real bone and muscle degeneration experienced by long-term Soviet Mir-jockeys, who simply didn't do their exercises, and second, the remarkable amelioration of these "effects" by all long-term US astronauts, who did do their exercises.

      I guess we'll have to recruit the Mars crews from the pool of "following the doctor's orders" astronauts rather than the "ignoring sensible medical advice" group.

    • There have been some projects, including one from Nobel Prize Carlo Rubbia: that one in particular would cut the time needed to get there to a handful of months, rather than one year. I'm surprised no one even looked into this (save the Italian Space Agency).
  • $100,000 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alex_vegas ( 891476 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @09:40AM (#15280940)
    Is anyone struck by how inexpensive $100,000 seems for a space suit
  • Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Sunday May 07

    The local public is invited to view the Mars spacesuit in action on Sat. May 6, weather permitting, at its North Dakota test site."

    Uhhhhhhh...
  • The local public is invited to view the Mars spacesuit in action on Sat. May 6, weather permitting, at its North Dakota test site.

    Hopefully they are not concerned about the suits getting rained on...
  • Hell, they got lots of suits from various movies just lying around I'm sure. Like Mission to Mars, or Red Planet. We can save on fitting if we just send Val Kilmer, in his original suit, on a one way trip!
  • Is the climate in North Dakota like the climate on Mars? Interested foreigners want to know!
  • Wouldn't it be a good idea to make the space suit a different color than the terrain its going to be used on?
  • Why so big? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @02:30PM (#15281876)
    Why are the darned things still so big and bulky? Three points come into mind:

    1) It has been 40 or 50 years since the Apollo-era spacesuits were designed.
    2) It has been at least 30 years since the current NASA spacesuites were designed
    3) The moon has no atmosphere. Mars DOES have an atmosphere. You don't need space suits on Mars, just suits to handle lower atmospheric pressure.

    So, it has been 30 years since the last spacesuit redesign, and these things aren't even space suits, why the heck are they so damned big and bulky? You'd think 30 to 50 years of technological advancement would have led to bigger improvements than this...
    • The moon has no atmosphere. Mars DOES have an atmosphere. You don't need space suits on Mars, just suits to handle lower atmospheric pressure.

      And insulation to handle the extreme temperatures.

      So, it has been 30 years since the last spacesuit redesign, and these things aren't even space suits, why the heck are they so damned big and bulky?

      Because they still include the same two systems that made space suits of the 60's so big and bulky - insulation and a pressure retention layer (and all the hardware to

  • The only ones who get rich in these space suit trials are the lawyers.
  • Am I the only one who thinks the color should be something easy to pick out from the Martian landscape? Brown is not exactly high contrast for the red planet...
  • Hoax! (Score:2, Funny)

    by bettlebrox ( 264668 )
    It's a hoax! They're actually really on Mars and trying to pretend they're in North Dakota. It's easy to tell because of the shadows and when he hit the golfball it so obviouly was in a lighter gravity. And one could tell that they used filters to make the lighting look earthlike ...

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