Take a look at NASA's latest prototype for its new spacesuit. Does it look familiar?
Now that you've seen it, doesn't it look a lot like the "Toy Story" character Buzz Lightyear?
If you see the resemblance, you're not the only one. The suit (called the Z-1) pictures are quickly reaching viral status because of the resemblance. But the appearance of the suit actually serves some practical purposes. Tested explains:
One of the key designs of the suit is a large port attached to the back, which astronauts can use to expediently enter and exit the suit. More importantly, the port can be used to dock the suit to the side of a shuttle or space station, bypassing the need for an airlock. It's efficient.
The Z-1 prototype suit is also mobile. Bearings in the suit's joints will give astronauts the flexibility to hop over lunar or martian soil with more grace than the explorers who wore older NASA exosuits. But the basic technology remains the same as existing space suits, meaning astronauts will still fight against the balloons of air inside their suits to move, expending extra energy with every step or bend of the arm. Of course, since those balloons of air are keeping them alive, the trade-off is worthwhile.
A focus on radiation protection will make the Z-1 suitable for longer spacewalks, but there's a good chance NASA's astronauts will look little like Buzz Lightyear by the time they actually were the next-generation suit into space. Despite being named one of Times' best inventions of the year, Z-1 is just a prototype that NASA will be building on with Z-2 and Z-3 revisions. NASA recently finished testing the suit, which means work on the Z-2 can't be far off.
And it should be noted, the suit is not that new. The pictures of it were posted on one of NASA's Flickr photo pages in early November. Additionally, Popular Mechanics did a write up in July explaining more of the tech behind it. You can read that here.
And sorry, I just can't resist ending the story like this: For our astronauts, it looks like it's "To infinity, and beyond!"