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Wednesday, February 27, 2013
The Next Generation Space Suit
THE SPACE SUIT MAKERS
When they first met in 2007, Ted Southern and Nik Moiseev came from two very different worlds. Nik had spent over two decades working in the Soviet Union and Russia as an engineer of cutting-edge garments that would be used to take cosmonauts by Soyuz rocket up to the International Space Station. Ted was an artist and sculptor who had studied at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute and worked as an apprentice at a costuming studio in Manhattan. The closest he had come to having a garment of his fly to outer space was at Victoria's Secret fashion shows, where models still wear his impressive angel wings.
But NASA's Centennial Challenge, a competition sponsored by NASA to spur innovation outside of the agency, brought them together as competitors in a peculiar but important competition: to design next-generation astronaut gloves. Each glove submitted would be subjected to an American Gladiators-style gauntlet of space-suit torture devices, used to test performance under the stresses of outer space. After walking away without any prizes the first time around, the unlikely duo stayed in touch, and decided to team up and start from scratch for the next challenge, two years later.
Their new five-finger collaboration, achieved mostly from great distance, proved good enough to place second in the subsequent glove competition. Subjected to stress tests once again, their glove outperformed the current NASA technology at the time. With a second-prize finish and a $100,000 grant from NASA, they launched Final Frontier Design, a start-up that aims to design the next generation of protective space garments.