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Project MarsSkin aims to design, produce and test analogue mechanical counter pressure (MCP) space suits which, will behave in a near identical fashion to the real MCP suits which may one day be worn on Mars. The intention is produce suits which may be used in Mars analogue research projects undertaken in Australia and internationally.
What is an MCP suit
The Mechanical Counter Pressure Suit (MCP) is an alternative space suit technology which has many superior qualities to the gas-pressurisation technique that has been used unanimously on all space flights to date.
An MCP suit would differs by exerting pressure on the body using form-fitting elastic garments. Webb and Annis published the concept and early experiments of a MCP suit in 1967, and in 1971 described the first demonstration that highlighted the many advantages of the MCP approach. MCP garments were found to offer dramatic improvements to gas pressurised suits in reach, dexterity and tactility due to the replacement of stiff joints and bearings with light, flexible elastics. Further advantages included safety (because a tear or hole would remain a local defect rather than cause a catastrophic puncture), lower suit costs and vastly reduced weight and volume. MIT conducted flexibility tests with basic MCP elastics during the mid 1980’s and found MCP gloves to be measurably superior to gas-pressurised gloves.
The success of the original MCP suit, the considerable advances in textile technology for fibers, yarns, textile creation and automated knitting machines, and the continued drawbacks of gas pressurized EVA suits have prompted new interest in the development of a MCP glove and suit. Honeywell (LA), University of California, San Diego, and Clemson University have conducted physiological and design testing on gloves and arms.
MCP, though less proven as the gas-pressurisation technique, is an innovative design offering many features which make it clearly superior as a Martian exploration spacesuit. The MSA acknowledges this fact and therefore seeks to be involved in the study and development of MCP EVA suits through Project MarsSkin.
Webb, P., Annis, J., "The Principle of the Space Activity Suit", NASA CR-973, Dec 1967.
Webb, P., Annis, J., "Development of a Space Activity Suit", NASA CR-1892, Dec 1971.
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