With the new sci-fi flick The Martian, director Ridley Scott strived for as much scientific accuracy as possible within the narrative of the story. But the space suits proved to be a bit of a problem.
In an interview with Space, The Martian’s costume designer Janty Yates revealed they initially looked at NASA’s prototype Z1 and Z2 spacesuits, though they just couldn’t make them work. It boiled down to two issues: They needed a suit in which you could actually show Matt Damon’s face through the visor, and the NASA suits aren’t exactly designed for film friendliness. The other problem is they were just a bit on the boring side, and they wanted something with some aesthetic flair.
Plus, real spacesuits are extremely puffy, and in a film with a guy running around trying to survive, that wouldn’t make for the coolest action sequences. So they went to the drawing board and designed their own suit. Sadly, you probably shouldn’t raid the costume closet if you’re planning a real-life trip to the Red Planet — we don’t think these could actually hold up out there for too long.
The final suit from the film was developed from concept art to nail a design that was the most aesthetically cool (which makes sense, since we’re talking about a movie), then they physically built it from the wetsuit material neoprene. The suits only weighed 15-20 pounds, though the getup also included a heavy belt. The suits also included cooling systems so the actors didn't have heat strokes while shooting. For the helmet, they went with something that’d allow maximum filming angles and piped in some basic airflow and communication tech.
Though the suit was developed by Scott and the art department, they did loop in NASA for notes, which helped nail down the final details. Regardless, there’s no denying this thing looks insanely cool — and should certainly accomplish its side goal of reigniting some excitement in space exploration.