Skin-tight Suits

The human body needs protection in low-pressure environments (e.g the vacuum of space or Mars’ low atmospheric pressure). Without protection, gasses in the body expand and liquids sublimate away, basically making the normal function of bodily systems impossible.

Gas partial pressures and operating pressures of suits and habitats are huge topics that I am not getting into here right now. What I want to mention is something that is a little surprising: skin itself is gas-tight and does not need as much protection as one would guess. All that is required is mechanical compression in order for it to maintain its normal shape and function.

The idea of mechanical counter-pressure (MCP) spacesuits originated in the ’60’s. But only recently have materials evolved to make such a suit practical. Maybe. Research is ongoing.

A Mars Life

“We will have to live in domed cities and wearing spacesuits on Mars for a long time. But that’s not to say that we can’t have a really nice life. But it’s not gonna be an Earth life. It’s gonna be a Mars life.”

-John Grunsfeld, Associate Administator, former Astronaut, NASA

(From Nat Geo digital short “Finding Shelter on Mars”, http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/u/kcHFdMpA6aOk1uf9U–PNfETnzRnlxuRaqE-NlgZ_SbDUwaV2DA9Q8pdgmwf/)