Newswise — Serenity: This is the name of the new Mars suit prototype currently being developed by the Austrian Space Forum (ÖWF). It will be used in an international Mars mission simulation in the Negev Desert in Israel in 2020 under Austrian leadership. Six so-called analogue astronauts will test experiments and procedures for future astronautical and robotic exploration of the Red Planet.
Since the analog astronauts work continuously in the Mars suit prototype, great importance was attached to optimising wearing comfort and ergonomics. To this end, the ÖWF has entered into cooperation with Empa's Department of Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles. Dr. Simon Annaheim, scientific group leader of the research group "Bodymonitoring" at the Empa department, commented: "Empa has developed a broad spectrum of body models and is an internationally recognised specialist for wearing comfort. It was very interesting for our research group to work together with the ÖWF as a competent partner for space suit development in the context of future Mars expeditions and to validate Serenity's new carrying system through a series of tests. This has shown that the new Mars suit prototype achieves significantly better ergonomics and load distribution compared to the previous model".
Improving heat regulation
The close cooperation is to continue: On 18 April, the two partners signed a cooperation agreement.
"With this cooperation agreement, the ÖWF and Empa are launching a joint research and development project that will make a significant contribution to optimizing suits for analog astronauts and astronauts," explains Dr. Gernot Grömer, Administrative Director of the ÖWF and adds, "We will be able to test the efficiency of the heat control system of our prototype under state-of-the-art laboratory conditions. Empa has outstanding expertise when it comes to evaluating such systems".
"Together with ÖWF as the Austrian partner in astronautical space travel, Empa will develop a unique European know-how for the optimisation and further development of space suits, which will also play an important role for future Mars missions. Material and technology development in space travel play a pioneering role for developments also in the textile sector", explains Annaheim.