Unless you've been living off the grid, you probably know that NASA is supposed to have humans land on Mars by the 2030s. That may seem like a long way off, but NASA is actually about to start recruiting astronauts for the Mars mission and scientific-types have been working on the spacecraft that will actually take the astronauts to the red planet for years. We don't know who will be chosen or exactly when they will actually touch down on Mars, but we do know what they'll be wearing.
Spacesuits, of course.
But these won't be any old spacesuits. After years of the same old white extravehicular mobility outfits, NASA has gotten snazzy with the Tron-inspired Z-2 spacesuit. The space agency just released photos of the Z-2 prototype last week and the photos show black and gray suits with sleeker lines that look like outfits astronauts will actually be able to move around in.
In fact, the Z-2 was designed to offer a lot more mobility than earlier styles of spacesuits (the ones that made the astronauts look and move like the Marshmallow Man from "Ghostbusters") because the astronauts that wear these suits will be using them to explore a foreign planet and won't be worn aboard the spacecraft or to conduct spacewalks or anything like that.
The suit is designed for maximum astronaut productivity on a planetary surface – exploring, collecting samples, and maneuvering in and out of habitats and rovers, according to a NASA release.
The suit comes with an adjustable waist and adjustable shoulders so it can fit any astronaut. It's lightweight but the torso is still really tough and the whole thing is designed to hold up to whatever conditions Mars can dish up. But the suit gets even more fancy than that: Parts of the Z-2 will be created using 3D scans of astronauts bodies to make sure that the suit will fit each wearer perfectly.
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The spacesuit was chosen by a public poll last year and the prototype still looks more or less like the original concept. This isn't the final word on the Z-2 suit though. It still has to be tested on the ground and it will likely be tweaked from there to make sure that it will actually be able to hold up on Mars. Plus, it hasn't been rendered flight ready yet, since it still has to be covered with materials to block out radiation and protect the astronauts.
It's hard to believe — based on both science fiction and the fact that Congress tends to cut NASA's budget whenever there's half a chance — that we'll actually see astronauts on Mars someday, but if and when it does happen, at least we know the astronauts will look pretty cool in the Z-2.