Boeing unveiled a new spacesuit on Wednesday designed for passengers and crew aboard the much-awaited Starliner spacecraft.
The new “Boeing Blue” suit is designed to be lighter and allow more mobility than any spacesuit before.
The suit was designed with input from veteran astronaut Chris Ferguson and David Clark Company, who designed the first Anti-G suits for World War II pilots and several spacesuits since.
The suits will be worn by Starliner crew members during launch, ascent, and re-entry. Each suit will also have been customized “to maximize protection, capability, and comfort,” according to Boeing.
This new iteration of spacesuit is one of the most streamlined to date. Important features of the new suit include built-in communication technology in the foam-cushioned soft helmet, mobility joints in the shoulders and elbows and gloves that work with touchscreens.
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And the new blue suit does more than just look good—it saves lives. It can be pressurized during an emergency or to protect astronauts during takeoff and landing. Each leg also features storage space, where astronauts can put a survival kit and personal items.
Boeing’s new suit is a far departure from the bulky marshmallow-looking suits we typically picture. Over the past 60 years, space suits have made incredible advances in weight, mobility, and safety. The very first space suit, designed in 1959, was covered in a layer of aluminized nylon.
The suits were metallic and futuristic-looking up until about 10 years later when NASA switched to an all-white, inflated-looking suit, which the agency has toyed with since. An orange version of the suit first appeared in 1981 and was reinstated a few times in the years after.
The Starliner is scheduled to take off in 2018. Its first mission will be to carry seven passengers to the International Space Station. The spacecraft will be reusable up to 10 times and only needs a six-month turnaround between missions.