Prada to design NASA’s new space suit – what does the science behind it all mean?

Although Prada may conjure up images of glamorous space suits, there is a much more serious side to the way in which space suits are designed. Comfort, thermal properties, durability and protection from the radiation are all critical factors. Astronauts must be able to move easily, maintain a natural body temperature and contain an oxygen supply without leakage. Moon dust is notorious for its abrasive nature that was found to penetrate into the joints of the space suits used on the Apollo missions by the likes of Neil Armstrong . Whilst these are arguably familiar challenges to wearable materials we use on Earth, there is one additional challenge of designing space suits which is unique to space – radiation.

MaThRad member Emma Horton notes that:

Unlike the Earth, the moon has essentially no atmosphere, exposing its surface to levels of cosmic radiation that are extremely dangerous to the human body. Space suits must also provide an additional layer of protection in this respect. Cosmic radiation consists high energy subatomic particles that fly through space close to the speed of light, usually the result of solar emissions. When such particles pass through materials, the cosmic rays can excite other atoms and cause the emission of even more subatomic radiation. Mathematically modelling on cosmic rays with suit materials and how this affects the body turns out to similar to modelling how we treat cancer through proton beam therapy, for example.”

Researchers with MaThRad are currently working on a new paradigm of mathematical models to better model and simulate the effects of penetrative radiation of this type. For more information or to speak to us get in touch via 

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