Can This High-Tech Fabric Withstand Extreme Weather Conditions in Outer Space?

Takepart.com

Hoping to take extreme weather wear to new heights, a German company is launching textiles into space in hopes of better understanding the "interaction between body, clothing and climate," according to a released statement.

German astronaut Alexander Gerst is heading for NASA's International Space Station (ISS) from the cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in May and will be conducting close to 40 different unprecedented experiments with the “Spacetex Project” using clothing in the weightless environment. 

The project's partners include textile and research institution Hohenstein Institute, Switzerland's Schoeller Textile, and the German Aerospace Center.

Gerst will be wearing a t-shirt, sweater and both short and long versions of undergarments while he does daily physical exercise on the treadmill. Under the Blue Dot Mission, Gerst will stay on the ISS for six months, along with Russian cosmonaut Maxim Viktorovich Surayev and NASA astronaut Gregory Reid Wiseman.

“It is hoped that the tests deliver essential information for developing new textile products for use in extreme climatic and physiological conditions on Earth,” the Hohenstein Institute said. “Equally as important, the data obtained should help optimize astronauts' clothing for future space voyages and long-term missions such as the approximately three year voyage to Mars that is planned for 2030.”

Once the mission is complete, the findings could potentially change the future of astronaut fashion as we know it.

Humans can cool down properly on Earth thanks to gravity, but in space, sweat can become an extremely hazardous byproduct. That's because the weightlessness causes body heat to collect in one place instead of dripping down away from the body. This creates "water aura," which  speeds up overheating and impedes functionality.

That's why clothing that absorbs sweat is so essential. Astronauts currently wear an undergarment of liquid filled tubes that remove heat to keep them cool.

Spacetex is hoping to expand on that technology.

Their textile absorbs sweat, transporting it away from the body without drying out skin. This, according to the project, could offer astronauts “physical comfort like a second skin." The textile uses both spun and textured yarns, a combination which allows moisture to be transported between several layers and eventually evaporate.

Project leader Dr. Jan Beringer says results from the experiment can also contribute to the development of anti-microbial textile finishes which will minimize the odor formation that occurs as sweat is broken down by bacteria.

Fret not, there's potential for Earthlings, too. Athletes, firefighters, members of the armed forces, and even catastrophe relief workers who are often in risky, extreme climate situations will be able to reap the rewards of the fabric.

"The finding from our spacetex project will be implemented in special garments for extreme environments to improve the comfort and performace of workers and "normal" people here on earth," Dr. Beringer told TakePart. "These findings will be of course also translated into mass production of functional garments. To put it very short: Research in space for better products on earth.

The International Space Station, which designed a nifty system in 2008 which filters astronaut sweat and urine into clean drinking water, might have one less thing to transform into H20 if the project is successful. 

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Original article from TakePart

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