MIT astronautics professor Dava Newman tries on her custom-fitted BioSuit, designed for exploration and work on Mars. The pattern of thick, semi-elastic polymer threads forms a support structure to counter the low pressure of other planets.
Until recently, astronauts rarely worried about what to wear -- a standard gas-pressurized spacesuit was the only choice. But navigating Mars in a bulky 300-pound setup would be like doing gymnastics in a suit of armor. "They're not going there to sit in the habitat," says Newman. "They'll have to work five to seven days a week."
Newman has designed an alternative with enough flexibility to get the job done. Partially inspired by giraffe anatomy -- the tall beasts use tight leg skin to help regulate blood pressure -- the BioSuit relies on mechanical counterpressure instead of gas pressure. Every suit must be tailored to squeeze its owner.