NASA’s Z-1 spacesuit prototype may not have become a reality, but there’s no denying that this project was inspired by Disney’s Buzz Lightyear. It was originally the agency’s first step in the developmental platform known as the Z-series, pushing the envelope on the capabilities of a “soft” exploration suit in terms of mobility.
It was mainly used as a prototype testbed to provide a first look at multiple technologies that would enable spacewalks both on planetary surfaces and in microgravity. The team managed to increase mobility through innovations in shoulder and hip joints, utilizing a number of new bearings to allow space suit wearers to dip, walk and bend with ease. This marked departure from previous “hard” composite torsos in NASA’s current spacewalking suit, the Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or EMU. What did NASA end up using? This spacesuit for future astronauts on Artemis missions.
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Photo credit: Space.com
After extensive testing and engineering design, the team came away with a number of important lessons. They learned that while some increased mobility was favorable, such as greater waist abduction and adduction, it led to less than favorable conditions like a smaller allowable torso size,” said NASA.