Weighing in at 530 pounds and standing 6.5 feet tall, the Exosuit could easily be mistaken for one of Iron Man's early prototypes. You'd also be forgiven if you thought this $600,000, one-of-a-kind creation was NASA's latest solution to surviving on the surface of Mars, but in reality this heavy hitter won't be flying to either infinity or beyond. Instead, starting this summer, scientists will begin hurling it off the side of a boat.
The Exosuit is the latest and greatest thing to come out of the deep-sea diving industry. Capable of reaching depths of 1,000 feet, this aquatic super suit can actually keep its human pilot safe and breathing for up to 50 hours at a time. Moreover, thanks to its 18 ruby-red rotary joints (and, you know, buoyancy) the suit is maneuverable enough to let divers swim about under their own power. If you're not up for a swim in the blackness of the deep ocean, there are also onboard maneuvering thrusters to get you where you're going (including the surface).
The Exosuit's pilot, Michael Lombardi, will be strapping in this summer in an effort to study the bioluminescent fish that dwell in the deep sea. With the aid of an ROV that amounts to a deep-water vacuum cleaner, Lombardi will literally sweep the sea for fish. Once a specimen is caught, it will be placed in a cartridge and observed. The hope is to discern the unique patterns of light different species of fish use to identify one another in the dark.
Lombardi has high hopes for the mission's success. As he puts it: "On one dive, I spent seven minutes at depth and came back with a new species, and so now I can spend five hours at depth ... It changes the game." Let's all just hope he doesn't end up waking the kraken.