High-tech 'skinsuit' to help astronauts avoid back problems in space

Jan. 13, 2014 at 8:42 PM
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PARIS, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- European Space Agency researchers say they're working on a high-tech, tight-fitting "skinsuit" to help astronauts overcome back problems in space.

Astronauts have been known to get taller by as much as 2.7 inches as their spines lengthen in weightlessness, with many astronauts suffering from backache during their missions as a result, the ESA says.

After a mission an astronaut has four times more chance of suffering a slipped disc than usual, the researchers said.

That led them to work on developing the "skinsuit," a tailor-made overall with a bi-directional weave specially designed to counteract the lack of gravity by squeezing the body from the shoulders to the feet with a similar force to that felt on Earth from gravity.

"Getting the suit to fit correctly was challenging," Simon Evetts of the Medical Projects and Technology Unit team at the European Astronaut Center said. "We needed to create a suit that is both tight-fitting but comfortable to wear, while creating the right amount of force in the right places."

ESA's Space Medicine Office is working with the Kings College in London and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to test prototypes, and ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen will be the first to wear the suit in space during a mission in 2015, the agency said.

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