Revolutionary skin-tight spacesuit is designed to mimic the effects of gravity on the body

While space agencies like NASA and the ESA research and develop methods for getting humanity deeper into space (i.e. ship advancements and planet habitability), a concrete solution for astronauts dealing with the effects of microgravity remains mostly nonexistent — until now, that is. For the better part of the last fifteen years, Dr. James Waldie of Australia’s RMIT University in Melbourne has worked on perfecting an innovative new skin-tight spacesuit reminiscent of what Olympic runners typically don during competition. In fact, it was after Waldie watched Australian sprinter Cathy Freeman win gold in 2000 that the idea struck him.

By focusing on vertical strength, the SkinSuit has the ability to more accurately imitate the gravity effect of walking on Earth.

Now, after years of development and slow progression, Waldie’s suit has finally undergone a real-life trial, making an recent appearance aboard the International Space Station. Dubbed the SkinSuit, European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen gave the revolutionary suit a spin during his time in space, and though the Danish engineer has since returned to Earth, he’s yet to publish his official findings. Waldie’s theory, however, is that the skin-tight suit will effectively reduce the debilitating effects of space flight, combating bone mass loss and spinal stretching.

“Given the impact of atrophy on astronauts in space, I wondered if a suit like the one worn by Freeman could fool the body into thinking it was on the ground rather than in space and, therefore, stay healthy,” says Waldie. “We believe if we can reduce spinal elongation in space, we can reduce the stress on the intervertebral discs.”

Andres Mogensen wearing the SkinSuit on the ISS
Andres Mogensen wearing the SkinSuit on the ISS European Space Agency

As previously mentioned, Waldie’s vision for outfitting astronauts in the SkinSuit has been an incredibly slow process. After toying with several iterations and designs of the suit, Waldie collaborated with groups from MIT, the European Space Agency, London’s King College, and leather jacket manufacturer Dainese to develop the prototype worn by Mogensen. Over the course of just two days, Mogensen recorded his height changes with and without the suit while also documenting changes in mobility and overall comfort.

“This was designated as an ‘operational and technical assessment,'” Dr. Waldie tells IFL Science. “This was just a short one to see if it is a viable garment. Two days is not enough to determine if there is any physiological advantage.”

Made from bidirectional elastic, the doctor admits the suit is incredibly strong vertically yet lacks strength horizontally. By focusing on vertical strength, the SkinSuit has the ability to more accurately imitate the gravity effect of walking on Earth. This design also allows the suit to gradually intensify the vertical load from an astronaut’s shoulders down to their feet.

As Waldie awaits Mogensen’s official report on the suit, the doctor intends to continue working on improving and upgrading the SkinSuit as well as an alternative skin-tight suit for use on space walks. Though no official date has been announced for further testing, if Mogensen’s assessment is even slightly favorable, future astronauts should expect to slip into these outfits on future missions.

Emerging Tech

Light-swallowing room promises Call of Duty fans the blackest of ops

What's it like to be in a room fully painted with the world's darkest material, Vantablack? The makers of one of the year's top video games teamed up with Vantablack scientists to find out.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this summer with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in October, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Black Panther’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Smart Home

How to create spooky Halloween effects with smart home lighting and sound

This Halloween, bathe your home with eerie smart home lighting and audio effects guaranteed to spook your neighbors. Use colored light and eerie sounds to create eerie Halloween effects.

Skydio’s self-flying drone now has an Apple Watch app for flight prep

Skydio's clever R1 autonomous drone now has its own Apple Watch app, making flight preparations simpler than ever. The $2,000 flying machine is now also selling at its first retail outlet — Apple Stores in North America.
Emerging Tech

Scientists created a condom that self-lubricates during sex. You’re welcome

Researchers from Boston University have invented a special coating for condoms which make them respond to bodily fluids by becoming more slippery. Here's how their new breakthrough works.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

You’re so vein: Palm-based biometric system could help confirm your identity

Move over, Face ID! The next biometric security systems could rely on analyzing the unique vein patterns in your palm print. Here are some of the ways the technology could prove useful.
Emerging Tech

For only $4,950, you can get jetpack lessons from the world’s only instructor

Have you ever dreamed of flying using a jetpack? JetPack Aviation founder -- and the world's only qualified jetpack teacher -- David Mayman is now offering a day of flight instruction.
Emerging Tech

Biologists have found a hormone that could make space farming possible

Researchers have shown how space farming may be possible. By encouraging plants to excrete a certain hormone, they’ve demonstrated that crops can thrive despite challenging conditions, such as low-nutrient soil and microgravity.
Emerging Tech

Keep your holiday gift list high tech and under budget with these gadgets

Modern technology doesn't always come cheap, but there plenty of premium devices that don't carry a premium price. Whether you're looking for a streaming device or a means of capturing photos from above, our list of the best tech under $50…
Emerging Tech

When tech goes wrong: Banksy’s shredder was meant to totally destroy his artwork

Banksy's recent auction stunt was meant to totally destroy one of his most famous pieces of work, but a fault with the shredder has left the buyer with something almost certainly worth far more than the $1 million she bid for it.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.