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Photos: A space suit that flatters your figure

At MIT, researchers are playing tailor with a BioSuit intended for those who might venture to Mars someday.

BioSuit for space travelers
MIT's Dava Newman models the BioSuit. Donna Coveney/MIT

If Spider-Man were to head into outer space, he'd probably want a BioSuit.

The prototype space suit is under development at MIT, under the direction of Dava Newman, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems. It's a long-term project--the unitardlike outfit has been under development for seven years, and Newman figures the BioSuit crew has another decade to go, as NASA inches forward with its plans to send people to Mars.

Traditional orbital outerwear, like the Extravehicular Mobility Unit worn by astronauts when they venture outside the space station, gets its bulk in part from gas pressurization that serves to counter the effects of a vacuum environment. By contrast, the BioSuit employs mechanical counterpressure via tight layers of spandex and nylon. The result should be greater mobility, which would be especially important in the gravity of Mars or the moon.

An eventual production-ready BioSuit might be something of a hybrid, perhaps incorporating a gas-pressurized torso. The helmet, too, would continue to be a hefty item.

To see CNET's gallery of space suit images, including more of the BioSuit as well as the NDX-1 being developed at the University of North Dakota, click here: "Photos: Building a better space suit."