Spacesuit Undergoes Zero Gravity Testing for Commercial Flights

Want to be a space tourist? A private space suit that has been in the making for years, is undergoing final zero gravity tests for use in commercial flights to space, but you need to have a strong stomach to test one.

Just one of the many novel challenges to overcome when private citizens start paying for luxury trips into space is overcoming the absence of Earth’s gravitational pull. It’s called Zero Gravity (Zero-G).

People who have experienced it, describe Zero-G as a motionless movement. A little push can send you gliding. Gravity isn’t holding you back. And that can be both good and bad for wanna-be space travelers.

Final Frontier has been completing its testing of a Zero-G suit that allows humans to travel in space. The company calls itself a “purveyor of commercial space suits and other fine aerospace safety garments.” Its founders met when creating and testing functional space gloves for NASA.

Called the “3G Intra-Vehicular Activity suit,” the Final Frontier getup was tested on three flights over Ottawa on Falcon 20 jets; each flight had 18 parabolas to simulate microgravity for a few seconds. For the first time, testing was “visor down” on the suit — the subjects testing the Zero-G suits were fully sealed inside.

Co-founder of Final Frontier, Ted Southern, said that a successful completion of Zero-G testing inside their suits was paramount, stating,

“One of the biggest risks of microgravity is vomit. If you vomit inside a closed spacesuit in microgravity, there’s a risk of inhalation and choking on your own vomit. It’s a big step to go visor-down because of the risk involved, and also because you’re relying on a life support system to sustain someone.”

Space suits are like oxygen masks that come down from the ceiling during an airplane crash, when the cabin may quickly become depressurized. 

Southern says NASA won’t have a place for their suits in the upcoming Orion space program. (NASA instead is going with a variation of the space shuttle’s Advanced Crew Escape Suit for interior activities, but he plans to offer them for commercial space flights.

Elon Musk’s first commercial space flights on Space-X (Space Exploration Technologies) are planned to take place for private parties, not disclosed, on the self-landing Falcon-9 rocket in the next few months.

Musk has also released his plans to create an Interplanetary Transport System which could take hundreds of people into space, particularly Mars, where Musk plans to create a habitable city.

Another engineering wiz at the University of Southern California has been working with NASA on the possibility of building a colony on Mars since 2011.

Boeing has also been working on a deep-space habitat that could house people on Mars, reportedly ready to go as soon as 2020, that could make living on the Red planet possible, once we get there.

As a National Geographic writer Joel Achenbach said, “If the trip doesn’t kill you, living there [Mars] might.” Spending just one year in space, can currently cause bone loss and brain damage, as cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, can tell you. He drove a simulated Mars rover on a Russian space station.  Then there are the psychological issues to deal with – being away from home, people you are familiar with, and even every-day problems that provide a sense of familiarity, and peace of mind.

The first challenge to overcome is getting to space, though.

To travel in space, we’ll need plenty of spacesuits that can help us withstand Zero-G. The body struggles to understand what is happening to it in this state, as it learns to breathe, move, think and communicate in a confined, gravity-free, and weightless space.

Image: PopSci

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