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Second Skin

ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Click here for Dava’s profile.

The first thing we noticed when Dava Newman come into our studios wearing her spacesuit—also known as the Bio-Suit—was that it was most definitely

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not your father’s spacesuit. (And as an aside, everyone on the SLoS team loves having a job that involves people visiting us in spacesuits!) Dava explained that she and her team are building the Bio-Suit with the goal of increasing astronauts’ flexibility and mobility—a key piece of the puzzle as NASA plans future space exploration. Dava also told us that there have already been some completely unanticipated benefits of her suit’s innovative design:

Second Skin-dava_in_her_suit.jpg
Dava in the Bio-Suit on our set.

“Something that’s been fantastic about the Bio-Suit design—which is like a second skin contoured to the body—is that I’m not in a big 300-pound spacesuit where you don’t know whether I’m a man or a woman because it’s so big and clunky. The Bio-Suit is skin tight, so you can say, ‘Oh, hey—there’s a male astronaut, there’s a female astronaut.’ So, I’ve been really pleasantly surprised—a lot of young girls are completely turned on by the design of the Bio-Suit. And they come up to me when I give talks at schools, and they think it’s pretty neat that it might be a spacesuit for a female astronaut. And oh, by the way, they think they might want to be an astronaut.”

As someone who was one of only two female students back in her undergraduate aerospace engineering department (there were 38 men), Dava knows more than a little about the importance of role models—and the lack thereof. So she continues to wear her Bio-Suit when she talks with children: “I want kids to know that engineering and science can be for all boys and girls… I’d love them all to be aerospace engineers and love their jobs as much as I do.”

Watch Dava’s videos, ask her questions, and follow her links.