Manned Space Explorations

Exploring Mars   GAMES
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Mars l Mars facts, pictures and information. - The Nine Planets

Introducing NASA'S Future Spacesuit, the Z-1 

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Mars Suits and Tools
 Space shuttle space suit
For the most part, the design of a space suit is based on the environment in which it will operate. Space shuttle space suits, for use in Earth orbit, are designed to operate in a vacuum and in microgravity. 

 Mars space suit
A space suit that will be used on the surface of Mars will require a different design. Astronauts exploring the Martian surface will have to wear space suits that will protect them from the very thin atmosphere, a lack of oxygen, and extremely cold temperatures. These space suits must be lightweight and flexible enough to allow astronauts to work and move about freely, but durable enough to withstand the rugged and dusty surface. The space suits that will be needed on Mars are currently in the design and development stage. The Mars suit will probably weigh about 80 pounds on Earth; on Mars that would only be about 27 pounds.

Tests are being conducted in Mars-like terrains here on Earth in Flagstaff, Arizona, to evaluate the flexibility, mobility, and durability of the suits and the different types of suit materials and components. 
One concern is to provide protection from the dust carried by Martian winds that will be kicked up by the explorers. Until samples of the Martian sediment are returned to Earth, we won't know how abrasive it will be. 

These and other properties of the Martian environment provide interesting and exciting challenges to space suit designers and builders.
Explorers on Mars will need to use a variety of tools and scientific equipment. To carry these things, they will use robotic rover assistants. 

These robots will not only be "pack mules." They will also be able to explore, acting as pathfinders and collecting samples from places that are too far or too dangerous for the crew to explore. Currently, engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center are developing special tools based on the ones used in the Apollo Program. Hammers, axes, walking sticks (‘mobility aides’), tongs (‘grabbers’), and hand corers (for soil samples) are being designed to fit pressured suit gloves. Pressure will be kept at 3.75 pounds per square inch inside the suit. This pressure is similar to that of the suits worn by the Apollo astronauts on the Moon in order to allow for more mobility. Click here to download a brief about the history of space suit development (large .pdf file).
Previous trials in the high desert near Flagstaff have tested the suits and tools in rover-aided expeditions. The Marsokhod Russian rover was used to test the interaction between extravehicular activity (EVA) astronauts and teleoperated rovers. 
The rover was used as a scout to find interesting targets and a safe site. Once the target was identified, the astronaut followed its path. The rover was also used to video document the crewmember’s activity and as a field assistant. In this scenario, the astronaut led the expedition by planting flags of different colors corresponding to tasks he wanted the rover to do; i.e., collect rock or soil samples, take pictures of the scene, take close ups of objects, or photograph the ground. Hazard flags were also used to keep the rovers out of trouble. While the rover was going to the designated sites, the astronaut continued his traverse. Humans can pinpoint sites of scientific interest much faster than robots can. Finally, the rover was used as a field technical assistant, carrying samples and tools for the suited astronaut.

This autumn, a field test will be done to test four new objectives: the laying of power cables, the deployment of solar panels, the use of a drilling rig (to dig down to 25 feet), and making extravehicular activity (EVA) traverses and tool evaluations. A large driving rover will be used that is similar to the rover astronauts will drive around the surface of Mars. 
The plan is for Mars astronaut backpacks to be made lighter by allowing them to recharge at the rover instead of having the astronauts carry 8 hours' worth of power and life support with them. The six-wheel-drive rover carries tools, air supply, a generator, and a communications system (audio and video). 

Since crews would be working near the rover, this is a feasible plan. The Johnson Space Center is currently considering building a small facility that will resemble the Martian terrain to do testing of suits, tools, rovers, and equipment at the Center in Houston, Texas. A partial gravity balance simulator that can simulate 1/3g (Martian gravity forces) here on Earth is also being tested.  When attached to the space suit, astronauts would feel like they were on Mars.
For more information, click on the following links:
Mars suits
Questions to think about: 
  • What would be the most difficult part of exploring the surface of Mars in a space suit?
  • Which activities would be more dangerous or difficult?
  • What types of support would you need?
  • What tools and equipment could help you explore very high mountains, steep cliffs or rocky terrain?


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