“Forget the complex choreography involved in putting on a spacesuit: astronauts will one day be able to get suited and booted in seconds by stepping through the neck of an overlarge, part-robotic spacesuit. So say engineers David Akin and Shane Jacobs at the University of Maryland in College Park. Once you’re inside the baggy suit, its upper torso contracts using pneumatic artificial muscles to ensure a perfect fit. Its morphing design means it should be less unwieldy than today’s suits and allow astronauts to be more efficient, both during spacewalks and in planetary exploration, Jacobs told the recent International Astronautical Congress in Daejong, South Korea. ‘Our research shows that of the physical work astronauts actually do on a spacewalk, only one-quarter of it is mission related. The rest goes into just moving the spacesuit around,’ says Akin. Robotic actuators are also being applied to the suit’s gloves.”
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