The Original
MarsSuit Project

Project Description

The MarsSuit Project started as an innovative education and research initiative designed to increase STEM skills, graduation rates and aerospace career opportunities in minority universities by engaging them in the 21st century’s most exciting adventure: The human exploration of Mars. Specifically, The MarsSuit Project was designed to link multiethnic, multicultural and diverse institutions in a virtual organization to study and assist NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) and Space Operations Missions Directorate (SOMD) in the formidable task of designing a Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) Next Generation Spacesuit. 

The MarsSuit Project focused on research and planning required for human exploration and discovery of other planetary surfaces with a particular focus on technology identification, assessment, systems design, development and engineering.

Specifically, it addressed elements of spacesuit design relevant to human health and performance; anthropomorphics; life support and environmental control; guidance, navigation and communication; and energy consumption for Exploration Class missions.  

At the forefront was education and public outreach. Classes, design projects, computer models and recognized experts were linked through a University Collaborative Center (UCC) enabling university teams to work with each other, NASA, industry and the public in a nationwide “virtual” network. The Project was designed to enhance educational opportunities for all participants, including establishing a much needed pipeline for minority and female Flight Surgeons at NASA. Skills categories included:

  • Technical (creative, design, test)
  • Project management
  • Budget management
  • Schedule management
  • Interfacing with NASA, industry)
  • Systems Engineering
  • Presentation skills
  • Technical writing (journals, papers, reports)
  • Networking
  • Bio-infomatics
  • Understanding and enhancing medical and engineering linkages at NASA

The MarsSuit Project was based on a successful 5 year pilot program conducted at the University of California, Berkeley in conjunction with NASA-Ames Research Center and Stanford University.

One Giant Leap
From Project to Prototype

The MarsSuit Project is on-going, but crucially formed the basis for transition to actual design and development and testing of the first real MarsSuit concept. This commercial extension of the MarsSuit Project has now reached Milestone 1 of it’s development Roadmap and the first prototype will be unveiled at the Humans2Mars conference in Washington DC on May 17th 2022. This prototype is the result of a development program that focused on the following Research Areas:

A. Life on Mars – The Challenge

Designing a new spacesuit and life support system (collectively called an EMU or Extravehicular Mobility Unit) requires rigorous analysis. Mathematical models of the human body and spacesuit that account for workload (metabolic rate), suit environment and suit materials are invaluable tools in this process. Such models, capable of predicting crew comfort, heat stress and suit performance were used in the Apollo era (Waligora, 1975; Biomedical Results of Apollo, 1975 and Kuznetz, 1976) and remain in use today.

Planetary Protech has upgraded these models to account for the new exploration class missions being planned to the Moon and Mars. Such factors as the lunar and Mars thermal environment; alternative suit and body heat rejection mechanisms; multiple suit lay-ups using new materials; and the effects of widely varying workloads for a range of gravity loads in disparate thermal conditions have been incorporated.

Planetary Protech is now capable of providing: pre-test and pre-mission predictions of astronaut and life support system performance; post-test and post-mission data analyses; evaluation of advanced life support design concepts; and simulations of the effects of the space and planetary environment.

B. Materials, Membranes and Radiation Protection

Advanced materials for radiation protection, heat rejection and planetary protection is critical to MECSuit Architecture and more specifically to the MarsSuit. Nano technology is being combined with advanced and Intelligent textiles to form unique material blends, including NüwaBlend®, which is a patented multi-layer technology and key element of MECSuit Architecture.

C. Mass Reduction, PLSS Component Repackaging and CG Redistribution

Planetary geologists interviewed for this design and development program recommended a limit of a 50 lbs equivalent mass on the shoulders of a “blue collar” planetary explorer.  In Mars’ 0.38 g, this translates to 132 lbs or Earth, a reduction of nearly 2/3 from the current Shuttle EMU mass (300-350 lbs). While the problem is only half as bad for lunar exploration (1/6 g), it is still significant. Achieving mass reductions for Mars and the Moon will not only improve efficiency but enhance human performance by reducing suit inertia. Video analysis (Kuznetz, et al, August 2006) revealed that Apollo astronauts fell roughly 3 percent of the time on the lunar surface, then struggled to right themselves, creating a potentially serious hazard. This hazard, traced to a high inertial mass and poorly placed center of gravity has been studied and addressed in the MarsSuit.

D. Bioinformatics

The ability to use real time spacesuit data during Project Apollo was vital.  By way of example, the suit liquid cooling garment (LCG) inlet and outlet water temperatures were used together with EKG and primary oxygen tank pressure decay to compute metabolic rate, life support consumable usage rates, heat stress and other key parameters. This data was crucial to the management of each Extravehicular Activity (EVA) because excessive consumable rates limit traverse times, impact science objectives and directly affect astronaut safety.

The Bio-infomatics algorithms are where the rubber meets the road so to speak. Embodying as they do communications, physiology and space medicine, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering, displays and graphics, surface navigation, time and motion study, EVA traverse planning, safety and other areas of critical monitoring and reaction. MECSuit Intelligent textiles and Smart Materials are being developed to monitor and self-react to internal and external condition variants in real time and to report via real time comms.

E. Heat Rejection Alternatives

Current Shuttle and ISS spacesuits use ice sublimation as their primary heat rejection mechanism. This requires pumps, fans, heat exchangers, control systems, porous plate sublimators and other complex hardware, packaged within a closed loop system. The penalty for this complexity is excess mass and cost.  Although such technology works well in low earth orbit (LEO), it is inefficient on the lunar surface, and will not function at all on Mars (the pressures are above the triple point, negating sublimation at the elevations suitable for human exploration).

MarsSuit incorporates a Dense Monolithic Membrane (DMM) which permits sweat to be evaporated through a pressure bladder and Direct Blood Cooling (or heating) of the bloodstream directly by coupling reduced pressure in a glove or boot with a conductive heat transfer material). DMMs and Direct Blood Cooling are attractive because they can eliminate or reduce the dependence on closed loop suit components such as liquid cooling garments (LCG) and air ventilation loops, leading to mass savings.

Other Advantages Include:


By using a layered design (NuwaTherm tm), the suit can be less massive, as it does not have to have a universal hot/cold capable system for the Moon or the vacuum of space.


By donning only the minimum layers necessary, the MarsSuit will better satisfy mobility and comfort needs.


Since the layers would be interchangeable from one MarsSuit to another, modularity and redundancy could reduce the total up-mass to be transported.

MarsSuit F. Helmet Torso Life Support Independence

A novel concept from the MarsSuit Project has now become the fully tested profile of the MarsSuit. The original concept was to separate the helmet and torso life support and pressurization systems using an oxygen mask, neck dam (similar to that which is used in diving applications) or other device. On Mars, such separation would enable the torso to be pressurized and cooled with the Martian atmosphere, while oxygen would be used only for breathing in the helmet.  Now this concept has been fully developed and successfully tested more advantages have come to light:


Current suits with helmet/torso contiguity provide no margin in a major puncture.  Survival time is on the order of 11 seconds or less since the helmet air supply would be voided immediately through a torso puncture.  Providing oxygen independently to the helmet would extend seconds to minutes allowing time for corrective action.

Resource Conservation

As much as 50 liters of oxygen can leak out the joints and convolutes of today’s soft fabric suits during nominal EVA operations. Pressurizing the torso with the Martian atmosphere, an infinite source of cold dry gas that can also provide thermal control, would save this expensive and precious resource, especially on Mars where it is rare. For the Moon or LEO, nitrogen or another inert inexpensive gas carried in the PLSS (Portable Life Support System) or externally instead of Mars air could suffice.

Mass Reduction and Simplicity

Cooling the torso using the cold, dry Martian atmosphere would permit open loop MarsSuit designs and eliminate some of the mass intensive closed loop components described earlier. A simple compressor, for example, mounted externally to the suit, on a Rover or on a nearby cart will pressurize the torso and blow the cold dry Mars air past the skin and out a relief valve for cooling and waste management. This is simpler, more efficient and less power demanding than a closed loop system. Planetary protection (see H) is also provided by the use of bacterial/viral filters at the inlet of the compressor and outlet of the relief valve. A protective barrier garment to separate the skin from direct contact with toxic or abrasive substances in Martian atmospheric gases is a key element of the MarsSuit development Roadmap and is projected to be complete by April of 2023.

G: Variable Pressure Suits and Gloves

Traditional spacesuits operate at fixed pressures and require significant pre-breathe times to ramp down from airlock pressure (usually 10 to 14.7 psi) to operational pressure (~4.2 psi). This is done to prevent potentially fatal disorders (decompression sickness, the bends) caused by the out-gassing of nitrogen bubbles into the bloodstream from too rapid a pressure drop. The long pre-breathe time, however prevents quick transitions from the habitat to the surface if an emergency rescue is required.  Planetary Protech is developing an automated ramp down in pressure on the surface instead of in the airlock. The suit, rather than the airlock would start out at habitat pressure and gradually ramp down to operational pressure on the surface, allowing rapid exit.   Rapid exit would not only obviate emergency rescue but would also increase productivity since time otherwise spent in an airlock would now be spent on the lunar or Martian surface. NanoTube technology will be integrated with Intelligent Textiles to stand much greater extremes of pressure. These Intelligent Textiles will also deal with any loss of  dexterity during the ramp-down phase at the higher suit pressures, and possible flammability and toxicity issues.

A combination wrist cuff and pressure relief valve system has been employed to switch between higher and lower operational modes but further testing will be required to assess the physiological effect of the lower pressure on the body.

H. Planetary Protection

According to the NASA Committee for Planetary Protection, forward and back contamination whereby Earth biological contaminants are released into the Lunar or Martian environment, or prospective Mars biological contaminants are inadvertently returned to Earth must be minimized or eliminated.  MarsSuit design overcomes this concern by incorporating viral/bacterial filters at the inlet and outlet of the suit’s ventilation airstream. Mass, disposability/sterility, maintenance, system integration and safety were all integral to the design. These elements are juxtaposed with other priorities to protect against dust and toxic reactants on the planets surfaces.

A Roadmap for the Industry

“The roadmap that NASA has committed to involves spiral development and multiple destinations and operating environments over a relatively short period of time. All of this at a time of very real budget pressures. Edward Hodgson, a Technical Fellow at Hamilton Sundstrand Space Systems International was quoted in in 2020 as saying ‘the most critical element for success will be the early creation of an effective, modular EVA system architecture,”

Hodgson went on to say that an evolutionary approach to suit design will permit changes in response to altering mission needs, and also the opportunity to infuse new technology as it develops with a minimum of system level redesign and recertification.

Eugene Grace, CEO of Planetary Protection LLC and MarsTech33 responded by saying ‘Yes, that is absolutely true, but rarely in the history of space suit design has that concept been fully incorporated. Even today, each suit is made in isolation to meet the specific demands of the environment it will be utilised in and very little of the fabric, or the components that make up a space suit can be re-utilised in a different environment.

Designers of this next generation of space suits of all categories must keep this modular approach at the forefront of the design process. Planetary Protech is committed to this design philosophy and has developed a suit architecture we refer to as a MECSuit (Modular and Evolution Capable). The MarsSuit, an EVA suit for Mars is the first of a range of space suits to be developed by Planetary Protech utilising the MECSuit architecture. We call this first version the M33. (Mars 2033).

The M33 combines weight reducing carbon and nano technology with Intelligent textiles and smart materials that provide wireless communications, auto-reaction to changing environmental conditions and protection to extreme environmental conditions.

MECSuits go further with interchangeable Bio management systems, robotic components, even helmets that can be unplugged and replaced with variants to deal with pressure, temperature, length of time required on surface and a host of other environmental and conditional changes required to operate in extreme locations.

Planetary Protech is proud to be developing MECSuit Architecture, which will be the industry template for space suit design for the next 100 years. The MarsSuit – M33, EVA suit for Mars will be the first application.

Phase 1 Development Cycle and Concept

Midway through our Phase 1 development cycle and concept proving tests the World was hit by the global pandemic we now know as Covid 19. Everything went on hold as we battled with isolation and illness just as everybody else did. But from that challenging early time the team at Planetary Protech realised we might hold a key to protecting key workers and healthcare professionals and even patients by adopting some of the lessons of MarsSuit design. More specifically our ability to completely Quarantine someone inside a full coverall and filter the air in both directions to prevent Covid particles entering, or leaving the coverall. We called it the QSuit.

The complexity of the design and the timescale to development, manufacture and certification was sadly too long to be able to help more people during Covid 19. But the opportunity to provide a precautionary product that could save countless lives if this ever happens again still remains. To meet that future demand we created a global concept we call ROR. Rapid Outbreak Response. QSuit is at the core of this global service.

To find out more about QSuit click here.
To find out more about ROR click here.