Suit built for free fall from space may not have future at NASA

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by KHOU.com Staff

khou.com

Posted on October 15, 2012 at 6:06 PM

Felix Baumgartner survived his record breaking leap from 24 miles above Earth on Sunday thanks in part to a special pressurized suit that experts say could help save the lives of future astronauts—except NASA is not interested.

Baumgartner leapt from 128,000 feet, falling through the near vacuum at speeds exceeding 800 miles an hour.

"He is a brave man, clearly, to have done what he has done. But this project is anything but a daredevil act," said Dr. Leroy Chiao.

Chiao is a a former NASA Astronaut who flew on three shuttle missions, the Soyuz Rocket and commanded the International Space Station.

Now, Dr. Chiao works with the Baylor College of Medicine Center for Space Medicine where some of the testing was done on the high tech suit worn in the jump. So does Dr. Jon Clark, who lost his wife Laurel when the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas in 2003.

All along the team has said this is not a stunt. It is research on the pressurized suit, something that could help protect our astronauts in the future.

In space talk they call them Black Zones, places astronauts don’t want to see

"Simply, our systems will not probably allow you to survive. The idea is to minimize or eliminate those black zones," said Chiao.

Since Sunday, 128,000 feet and down is off the list.

"That’s a big step. The suit is certainly part of that survival process," said Chiao.

NASA says that the suit is not in its future plans. A spokesperson said it doesn’t see any need for it.

But that doesn’t mean that the new suit doesn’t have a future in space. NASA is not the only place that needs suits.

"You have the new commercial space companies and they are going to need suits," said Chiao.

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