The Extra-Vehicular Suit is really one of the intro components that gets to design around the human. The way I approached this one was a little bit different, but none the less, focused around current low risk approach, all the way up to high risk levels of design. I wanted to look at how we think of space suits in general, and perhaps ways to re-think how we approach the designs. I started by considering a typical space suit. The medium risk ended up being somewhat of a hybrid of both mechanical accessories, and some bionic exoskeleton components. The high risk, I feel, is a full on mech, which actually ends up being more of a vehicle or machine than space suit. Still, worth exploring as an option for the future.
One of the things that I personally liked about the mech design, was that you could rethink the space suit. All a space suit does anyway, is protects the human body from extreme conditions. The idea that a space suit has to be form fitting, may only be useful when you need to be mobile in smaller environments. Think about Ceres and how a mech or space suit would be used, I can see relevance in both the need to be spacesuit-like, and mech-like.
The mech could be sat in, like a bulldozer or piece of heavy machinery. It could be ridden like a motorcycle or quad. Really it could be stood in, and controlled in hundreds of ways. The mech is such an interesting concept because it really is the humans projection of themselves through a technological and mechanical output. The machine becomes and extension of the human themselves. Allowing the human to live in conditions they never would be able to otherwise, flying against a new gravitational force, traversing terrain that a suit would never allow alone. This is what informed my next design move. I wanted to focus on mech design as a way to explore possibilities.
One of the realms of design I wanted to begin to explore, one that I think will be crucial to embrace when moving forward with the architectural portion of the thesis, is chaos. Embracing chaos and working within it is something I really have never tried. Let me explain this process of randomly informed generation. Within Photoshop I created brushed made out of the previous space suits and mechs that I had drawn. Combining the brushes, playing with scattering and brush presets, I was able to create what I call, mech brushes. These are random creations that I approached as what can I make out of these. I have no preconceived idea of what I am going to get, all I know are the basic functions of the mech that I need to consider.
I approached these like those blotchy images they show crazy people. "What do you see in this image"? Well I can see a lot, and this is a really fast way to create some nice silhouettes that already have some tone and contrast to subtract, and build upon. These iterations looked at propulsive suits, full on mech suits, standing suits, motorcycle stance suits, and sitting suits. This was really a challenge to just let loose, and let little happy accidents inform what I was carving into these. It is a true demonstration though of just how imagination can turn random chaos into informed iterations. More importantly, just how little time this actually takes.
The magic, although already very apparent, actually happens with my next move. I knew as I was designing these mechs that although they are really fun to design, and probably play a role in the future of space, actually get away from the human component. Mechs will be more of a vehicle than a suit. So I allowed the mechs to inform a more human approach. I took elements of the mechs and infused them into the scale and functionality of the humans need. This reminded me of some early design works within my thesis that looked to translate biology and insects into machines. Well, this is like translating machine, into humans. Which after having had explored this, is a really fascinating idea.
While still keeping with the whole embracing chaos method, I modeled up a generic space suit, that incorporated components that I knew I was going to have to have. (jet pack, bionic boots, helmets, gloves, things like that) Next, I added components of geometry and manipulated the distortion of each one separately, just to see what I could find. I am really just playing off of aesthetics and happy accidents to perhaps lead me towards some type of form or language that may work. I also use reference of the 5 previous suits that I did, for very loose inspiration of each iteration.
Using this almost fractal like way of manipulation, I can quickly generate many variations. The point of this isn't really to model something accurate of precise. It is a way of generating something very complex, and fast. The real trick is being able to prune and control the chaos and turn it into something simple. It is almost the opposite of typical design where you build from simple to eventually complex. This is a way of taking complexity, simplifying it, and then generating back into a model, or in my case, over top a more human form.
Really, my goal was to make a suit that would function specifically on Ceres, or other low gravity/ icy planets. Also, my personal outlook on the future of space suits really won't be these big, bubbly, gawky, hunkin space suits. I would expect like most of the other technological advancements, things will become more sleek, more form fitting, which in turn means lighter, and thinner. I imagine that all of the necessary inputs and outputs would be more unified into one central interface located where it is easy to access.
Another important aspect, although the concept itself not being new or innovative, is the jet pack. This would be a single source propulsion right in the back of the suit. This would be an additive component, independent of the actual space suit itself. Along with the complimenting calf packs, which, I have not seen on anything else as a concept. The idea being that the jet pack, and calf packs could be quickly snapped into place, and appropriate lines could be quickly hooked up to create a much more dynamic suit for specifically traversing the low gravity and terrain on Ceres. The Jetpack suit would also serve as a re-entry shield upon entering Ceres from orbit speeds.
Both Helmets are equipped with two lights, and a video/pic cam. You could almost think of these suits as just having built in GoPro Cameras that document ever thing the astronauts and explorers would see. The Jet pack would also have a different helmet, one that includes a digital interface that is linked to the suits CPU to identify things, display data and information, as well as oxygen levels and information of the suit.
I also thought about this from a more human type of aspect. I envision that there may be female specific suits, as well as Male ones. I think identifying gender and showing that in the stylistic approach of design is something that is important to conserve the "human" aspect, rather than us just turning into some from of bionic, exo-skeletal machines. Although we will rely on machines and these bionic enhancements, does not mean we give up our own, original identity as human beings.