Research Assessment 7
This article was about the development of the BioSuit - Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s activity bodysuit - and its benefits when it comes to negating the effects of a lack of gravity on the human body.
Zero gravity or even “less” gravity causes a decrease in bone mineral, density, strength, and area. The lack of Earth-like gravity also causes muscle mass to decrease, hurting the body’s structural and agile functions. After reading the article about the development and changes in space suits, I wanted to look into the BioSuit specifically, and learn more about its functions, especially relating to the human body in zero gravity.
The Penguin Suit was the initial foray into space suits that can recreate the effects of gravity on the human body, but its use of bungee cords made the suit too uncomfortable for regular wear, ruining the potential of the design. I plan on reaching out the physical therapists who use the child version of this suit in their brain and spinal cord therapy to gain physical access to the suit and see the pitfalls in real life. The problems with the Penguin suit open the floor to new solutions for space suits like modern activity suits such as the BioSuit.
The BioSuit is the new age space suit that uses cross panels of elastic fibers with electric currents to create a functional skin tight suit that evenly applies pressure. More importantly, it mimics the effects of gravity on Earth, by increasing the G force as you travel further down the body. This means that the legs and hips experience more force than the upper body, which is how gravity works naturally. By applying pressure to the entire body and increasing G force to the lower limbs, the BioSuit recreates the effects of gravity significantly better than current space suits that are in circulation. This means that the bones of an astronaut in the BioSuit will retain its original mass longer and be functional for longer periods of time in space, a necessity for space travel to farther destinations such as Mars.
The use of two elastic modules ensures that the suit will be skin tight and apply sufficient pressure. This is an interesting approach that can help me with my research and analysis into space suits and could potentially lead to some new design ideas of my own. At the same time, the pressure applied can be too much for certain body parts, such as hands, feet, and the head. This means that there will need to be gloves, shoes, and a helmet to compliment the suit and will need to be air tightly fitted to the space suit.
The biggest downfall of the BioSuit is its need to know every measurement of the body of the user. The plurality of measurements slows down the process of creating suits. It makes the task more laborious and time and resource consuming, something astronauts lack when they are in space and in dire need of a fix or a replacement. Potentially using laser scans or another method to quickly get a model of the entire body can make this process significantly faster and more realistic.
Overall, the increased agility and lightweight nature of the BioSuit makes it promising. But the pressure and force applied to astronauts, is the true success of the suit. It more successfully mimics gravity. This opens many doors into what is possible and acceptable when it comes to space suits. Further research is necessary to truly understand the specifics of the suit. The implementation of a laser scanning system and the use of different fibers and pressurized systems for extremities will improve the BioSuit.