It’s not as sleek or form-fitting as the spacesuit worn by Matt Damon in The Martian, but it’s certainly something. NASA has released the latest photos of its Z-2 spacesuit prototype—an early model of what astronauts will ultimately wear as they traverse the dusty surface of Mars (and, perhaps, other planets and moons).
The Z-2 is for planetary exploration only, and won’t be used in space or on spacecrafts. NASA says it’s still in the prototype stage, and that the final design will likely be a bit different than what was unveiled today (Nov. 6):
Because the Z-series is still in the prototype, or non-flight, phase, the design won’t be making a trip to space. The cover layer of a non-flight suit still performs an important function in ground-based testing. The cover protects the lower layers and technical details from abrasion and snags during testing. It also serves to provide the suit with an aesthetic appeal.
NASA still has another decade or two to finalize the suit, if it wants to meet its goal of putting humans on Mars by the 2030s.
The Z-2 will offer Mars-walkers “maximum astronaut productivity on a planetary surface,” which will allow them to easily maneuver in and out of rovers, collect samples, and just generally prance around the rocky Martian surface.
The high-pressure suit can also effectively “dock” into a spacecraft or Mars base, taking airlocks out of the equation.
The design of the Z-2 “Technology” suit was originally chosen by space nerds last year in a public poll. It beat out two other designs, nicknamed “Biomimicry” and “Trends in Society.” Back then, the Z-2 looked like this:
Today—after a few smart design tweaks that make it look less like a Teletubby—the Z-2 now looks like this: