Drew Hoyle, an aerospace textile engineer at NASA says renewed interest in space exploration has resulted in the search for textiles that can resolve problems encountered on earlier lunar missions decades ago. Among the needs to be addressed for a new lunar mission are textiles for spacesuits that provide better dust mitigation. The environment makes lunar regolith or soil very “sticky,” due to electrostatic adhesion forces, and the dust is extremely sharp, even at submicron sizes.
Flammability is also a major challenge, as astronauts need materials that are flame resistant at higher oxygen levels than earth—intrinsically flame-resistant fabric at greater than 40% O2 , for both next-to-the-skin clothing and structural textiles.
The logistics of cleaning clothes versus disposing of them is also a serious question—and no small matter, particularly on a long-term mission.
“Ninety-five percent of what we use today we’ve been using since the 1970s,” Hoyle says, which shows ample opportunity for companies who wish to work with NASA. Photo: Janet Preus