Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Stepping out on Mars in painful fashion

In focusing as intensely as people generally do on the mechanics of getting to Mars, you tend to forget that once there, someone has to have a way to go walkabout on the surface. The International Mars Society have just held their 8th convention (11-14 August) in Boulder, Colorado, and concluded that old style suits such as those worn on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts would not be suitable (no pun intended). The Mechanical Counter Pressure (MCP) suit aims to use elasticity to provide pressure instead, and was first proposed in Apollo days but rejected at the time. The suits are much thinner than normal, and also very very tight fitting. Says inventor Paul Webb, "its reasonably comfortable so long as the air the astronaut breathes is pressurized to match the suit's constrictiveness. Otherwise, it hurts like hell."

More on the idea at and a neat picture of the suit in action here.