When we think of spacesuits, despite the sliver of the Mercury project or the bright orange used for Space Shuttle flights, we tend to think of white. There's just no escaping that image of Neil Armstrong on the moon, his helmet a dark reflective surface, decked out all in bulky white material.
A new age of spaceflight is coming, though, and it'll have some new, more colorful suits to go with it.
Earlier this week, Boeing unveiled the new suits it's developing to go with the new Boeing Starliner craft, a commercial vehicle that will begin taking NASA astronauts to the International Space Station following the first crewed flight tests in 2018. Though they bear many similarities to the classic NASA designs, the Boeing suits are significantly lighter, weighing 10 pounds less than the "launch-and-entry" suits first worn for Space Shuttle flights. Their modern design allows for more movement at the joints while also incorporating the helmet directly into the suit. The material also lets water vapor out while keeping air in, making the suit cooler, and -- perhaps the coolest feature -- the gloves are sensitive to touch screens.
"The most important part is that the suit will keep you alive," astronaut Eric Boe said. "It is a lot lighter, more form-fitting and it's simpler, which is always a good thing. Complicated systems have more ways they can break, so simple is better on something like this."
Astronauts are already performing movement tests with the suits on board a mock-up of the Starliner craft, giving them a rigrous workout to make sure they really do move as well as Boeing hopes.
Functionality aside, they just look cool. There's something positively Kubrickian about them, which'll come in handy when the evil flight computer decides to take over. Check out video of the suits in action below.