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Why Are Spacesuits So Heavy?



Imagine trying to fix machinery while you’re orbiting Earth, with the Sun pelting you with rays, space dust flying all around, and your only source of oxygen strapped to your back. That’s what astronauts on spacewalks experience, and they do it all in 280 pound spacesuits. Of course, thanks to a lack of gravity, weightlessness makes the cumbersome suits a little less problematic, but it’s still no easy task to maneuver in one. Why make them so heavy in the first place?



1. They contain life support, a water tank, and SAFER system.
Spacesuits need to do a lot of things, all in the name of keeping astronauts alive. Part of the spacesuit is a backpack containing a life support system that provides oxygen and removes carbon dioxide, a water tank to circulate water through tubes in a liquid cooling garment, and the SAFER system which contains thrusters to help astronauts get back to safety if they begin to drift too far away.

2. The materials have to protect against a range of dangers.
Lightweight materials just won’t cut it out in space. To protect against intense radiation, extreme temperatures, and rapidly accelerating space dust, thick layers and hard outer shells are required. Altogether, astronauts wear an undergarment layer, upper torso shell, lower torso, helmet, and extra-vehicular visor. Every piece is necessary to keep them safe.



3. They don’t weigh so much in space.
Remember that weight is a measurement of how much force gravity is exerting on something. So, on Earth you weigh more than you would on the Moon, as does a spacesuit. Less cumbersome designs may be created one day, but current spacesuits have done their job for quite some time and are likely to continue working far into the future.
 
Jan 27, 2021
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Imagine trying to fix machinery while you’re orbiting Earth, with the Sun pelting you with rays, space dust flying all around, and your only source of oxygen strapped to your back. That’s what astronauts on spacewalks experience, and they do it all in 280 pound spacesuits. Of course, thanks to a lack of gravity, weightlessness makes the cumbersome suits a little less problematic, but it’s still no easy task to maneuver in one. Why make them so heavy in the first place?



1. They contain life support, a water tank, and SAFER system.
Spacesuits need to do a lot of things, all in the name of keeping astronauts alive. Part of the spacesuit is a backpack containing a life support system that provides oxygen and removes carbon dioxide, a water tank to circulate water through tubes in a liquid cooling garment, and the SAFER system which contains thrusters to help astronauts get back to safety if they begin to drift too far away.

2. The materials have to protect against a range of dangers.
Lightweight materials just won’t cut it out in space. To protect against intense radiation, extreme temperatures, and rapidly accelerating space dust, thick layers and hard outer shells are required. Altogether, astronauts wear an undergarment layer, upper torso shell, lower torso, helmet, and extra-vehicular visor. Every piece is necessary to keep them safe.



3. They don’t weigh so much in space.
Remember that weight is a measurement of how much force gravity is exerting on something. So, on Earth you weigh more than you would on the Moon, as does a spacesuit. Less cumbersome designs may be created one day, but current spacesuits have done their job for quite some time and are likely to continue working far into the future.
i believe they will make them reasonably lighter
 
Dec 29, 2019
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I doubt spacesuits will survive in current form if 10 hour day jobs in space become a thing; I don't think there will be many of those, suiting suited humans rather than better serviced by machines. I think without power assist of some sort basic manual tasks will always be slow, hard work, with fine dexterity compromised, but if your suits are in effect robots you may as well use robots - or use other, probably sophisticated remote operation, which can be done from the comfort and safety of... an office on the space station, or then, it could be somewhere on Earth. It isn't a matter of preference; for going commercial having the least astronauts keeps costs down.

But assuming there is a place for humans working in spacesuits then it will be different suits for different purposes. Something for working outside, something different for working inside - in vacuum within a station, without the sun or radiation - and quick and easy one size fits all emergency suits, just in case. Different suits for different tasks.

For any kind of physical work you need anchoring to get leverage. Anchoring is too important to delegate to booted legs anyway ( and gloved hands are enough to move around in internal workspaces and outside you would would want rocket jets), so if it were up to me I would not have legs on the suits at all. I'd make use of freed up feet to work controls - perhaps flying the suit. I'd also include some internal space, enough to pull head back out of helmet and arms out of sleeves, to eat and drink and scratch and piss at least.
 
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Feb 18, 2020
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Is it because lighter materials either do not have the strength to withstand the outward pressure, or are too permeable to breathable gases at that pressure? Is temperature variation with these variables an issue?

Cat :)
 
Jan 21, 2020
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a spacesuit is a tool. the more it's used the more efficient it can become.
I expect it to become more flexible over time.
 
Mar 2, 2020
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Imagine trying to fix machinery while you’re orbiting Earth, with the Sun pelting you with rays, space dust flying all around, and your only source of oxygen strapped to your back. That’s what astronauts on spacewalks experience, and they do it all in 280 pound spacesuits. Of course, thanks to a lack of gravity, weightlessness makes the cumbersome suits a little less problematic, but it’s still no easy task to maneuver in one. Why make them so heavy in the first place?



1. They contain life support, a water tank, and SAFER system.
Spacesuits need to do a lot of things, all in the name of keeping astronauts alive. Part of the spacesuit is a backpack containing a life support system that provides oxygen and removes carbon dioxide, a water tank to circulate water through tubes in a liquid cooling garment, and the SAFER system which contains thrusters to help astronauts get back to safety if they begin to drift too far away.

2. The materials have to protect against a range of dangers.
Lightweight materials just won’t cut it out in space. To protect against intense radiation, extreme temperatures, and rapidly accelerating space dust, thick layers and hard outer shells are required. Altogether, astronauts wear an undergarment layer, upper torso shell, lower torso, helmet, and extra-vehicular visor. Every piece is necessary to keep them safe.



3. They don’t weigh so much in space.
Remember that weight is a measurement of how much force gravity is exerting on something. So, on Earth you weigh more than you would on the Moon, as does a spacesuit. Less cumbersome designs may be created one day, but current spacesuits have done their job for quite some time and are likely to continue working far into the future.
You are confusing weight with mass. Spacesuits in microgravity can be cumbersome just moving the joints and especially using the gloves. It takes just as much effort to move mass as it does on Earth, a fact that was learned in the Gemini program when Gene Cernan struggled on his EVA.
 

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