All Female Space Walk Scheduled, WISE Member Jennifer Law Experiences Space Garments First Hand
Posted: Oct 30, 2019
Jennifer Law (WISE Member, Ergonomics Practice Leader – Lockton Companies) is involved in ASTM Committees representing the safety/ergonomics/human factors side of F47 Commercial Spaceflight and F48 Exoskeletons and Exosuits, so she naturally wanted to experience the user’s perspective first hand. Jenn finally had a chance to squeeze in a visit with Final Frontier Design (FFD) to try on an IVA (Intervehicular Activity) pressurized spacesuit and a MCP (Mechanical Counter Pressure Glove). Jenn described the experience as surreal. She anticipated the spacesuit would be less snug than it actually is, but it was able to be adjusted to her size and height. The construction of the garment and head gear, along with the nature of the fabric helped Jenn gain a better understanding of how one would have to maneuver inside a space vehicle while interacting with the controls and surrounding environment – not to mention speaking and breathing inside the enclosed garment.
Pictured: Ted Southern (President of FFD) on left and Nikolai Moiseev on right (Lead Designer and Engineer) with Jenn.
FFD is a design firm founded in 2010 with a collaborative team of artists and engineers that share a goal to create advanced garments for Earth and space. They have several contracts with NASA and private industry to equip humans in extreme environments. Jenn learned a great deal about how spacesuit sizing works and how it can affect a mission. One example is the recently cancelled all-female spacewalk that was scheduled this past March. The issue was more complicated than just female suit sizing. For starters, the suits are extremely expensive to design and manufacture (multi-millions), there are only a handful of sizes available on the ISS (International Space Station) at a given time, plus certain adjustments or repairs take numerous hours or days to complete (which can delay a mission). Astronaut Anne McClain shared that the all-female spacewalk cancellation was not planned, it was just how it worked out based on the available functional spacesuits at that time. It was her call to cancel for safety reasons, not sizing issues. So here is a big WISE Wave to Astronaut McClain! The exciting news is that another all-female spacewalk is scheduled to occur this week, this time with Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir. Earlier this week, NASA also unveiled a new spacesuit to be worn by the first woman on the moon.