Working in space can be hard on astronauts’ psyches, according to space researchers, who are developing a new space suit aimed at reducing astronauts’ stress levels while they go about their operations in Earth orbit. The researchers, a group of Florida Polytechnic University scientists and graduate students, are designing a “happy suit” that adjusts oxygen levels, temperature, and light color and levels as needed to help the wearer feel calm and comfortable.
The happy suit will have a full-body lining of Smart Sensory Skin, an experimental technology that will use wireless sensors to monitor any changes in the astronaut’s body that indicate elevated stress, such as accelerated heart rate or rising blood pressure. The sensors will prompt the suit’s internal controls to raise or lower its various settings as needed to help calm the wearer’s nerves.
“It’s vital for astronauts to be mentally healthy during missions and right now there’s no active, real-time solution to help them when they feel stressed or anxious,” said Arman Sargolzaei, a Florida Polytechnic professor of electrical engineering.
Astronauts are prone to mental distress, Sargolzaei explained, attributing it to factors like lack of sleep, insufficient exercise, the steep physical toll of prolonged low-gravity exposure, too much light, and the fear of making mistakes in an environment where even small mishaps can be dangerous. Astronauts living for periods of times on space stations, including the International Space Station, have reported feelings heightened anxiety, irritability, or feelings of overwhelm or discouragement over time.
He described the suit as a way to help astronauts reduce their stress to manageable levels and maintain their moods during the rigors of space work.