Can You Do Better Than NASA?

06 May 2007
Posted by Chris Smith.

Ever thought you could do a better job than NASA?  Well Peter Homer from Maine, in the US, did and he scooped a two-hundred-thousand dollar prize for his efforts.Astronaut

This was all part of a competition, run by NASA, to design a glove for a space suit that would out perform their own version.  Space suit gloves are very important, because when astronauts are on space walks outside the international space station they need to be able to use tools to do service work such as power drills and screwdrivers or spanners, so they need to be flexible.  They also need to be airtight and tough so they don't rip and let all the air out of the space suit.  They also need to be well insulated to keep the astronaut's fingers warm.  NASA's current design is rather bulky and stiff and astronauts who go on space walks for around 6 hours at a time often complain of bruised hands and fingernails bent back on themselves.

Homer's design used simple off the shelf materials such as surgeon's medical gloves and insulating and strengthening fabric bought from ebay.  The final hand stitched glove was stronger and more comfortable than the NASA glove scooping the prize.

Unfortunately NASA won't be distributing the prize winning glove amongst the astronauts just yet.  One thing NASA's gloves do have that Homer's doesn't is a super tough outer layer that protects the astronauts from tiny micrometeorites that could puncture the suit.

However if you feel that you can beat NASA then you haven't missed out yet.  There are a series of competitions being run to encourage innovation and the next one is a competition to design a digger for use on the Moon, so get your thinking caps on.

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