North Dakota students show off Mars spacesuit prototype

We had assumed that with all the robots being developed for deployment to Mars, the human astronauts would mostly be lounging around inside the comfort of their robot-built habitats and ordering drinks from their robot bartenders, but yesterday's unveiling of a prototype spacesuit for navigating the Martian terrain proves that manned missions might not be as cushy as we anticipated. The 50-pound suit (which they somehow got The Office's Steve Carell to model) was designed by students from five North Dakota colleges in a collaborative project funded by a $100,000 NASA grant, and includes at least three innovative technologies for which patents have been filed. Among the slew of sensors and communications gear designed for the harsh, low-gravity environment are oxygen and carbon dioxide detectors, GPS system, full suite of health monitors, shoulder mounted CCD cam, Bluetooth server to coordinate all the data, and a high-power transmitter for beaming info back to the mothership -- though curiously, there's no mention of an onboard weapons system that would be crucial for encounters with the occasional hostile Martian. Also, as the AP helpfully notes, even with all the research and design that went into this project, the forty-odd students seemed to neglect a key feature of any good full-body suit, which is an "escape hatch" for when the astronauts need to "jettison their waste."

[Via futurismic and abc]