As Matt Damon has proved beyond doubt, wandering around on Mars takes one hell of a cool space suit. NASA’s current suits — and suit-testing protocols — aren’t up to snuff and it wants your help making something better.
In a dryly-worded press release, NASA has said that it “is seeking proposals for test methods or procedures to assess wear/damage to candidate space suit textile materials”. In other words: NASA needs cool (and scientific!) ways to destroy space suits. Now this is my kind of crowd-sourcing campaign.
The tests will need to simulate the wear and tear of extraterrestrial (read: Martian/lunar) dirt and dust, specifically abrasion resistance, and the mode of failure: does a failing fabric do so slowly, or all in one go?
NASA’s best current suggestion seems to be sticking scraps of material in a tumble-dryer with dirt, and seeing how long it takes to break. If you’ve got better suggestions, send ’em in: NASA is expecting to award $US5000 to the three best ideas.