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Pathogen(Ebola) barrier suit based on NASA space suit

I find this situation very frustrating. I'm not going to hide it. If we were able to protect humans from getting exposed to hazardous radiation and the general, non life-sustaining void of outer space over forty years ago, on the moon, we should certainly be able to comfortably and safely put dozens of qualified health care workers any where on planet earth. The technology exists, we just need to modify it and modernize it to literally suit our greatest resource in public health, people. NASA should openly contribute their clothing technologies to USAID in order to develop a more form fitting, less cumbersome suit, with an updated life support backpack so that heath care professionals can safely and very comfortably perform their work.

Photo of Tyson Sapre

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This is an exercise in integration, connecting the dots.

Cooling technology and filtered air supply technology, as well as a water reservoir for comfort and hydration, switchable LED lights to increase visibility at night, and exoskeletal support to reduce long hours of standing, as well as a drain for urination, would truly keep health care workers comfortable.  These, as well as sealed barrier protection from pathogens, would put health care workers on a true path to success in a crisis environment.  

General assembly of traditional space suit, the goal would be to simplify this as much as possible for land and emergency needs.

MIT is developing a form-fitted suit for future space travel:

There are antimicrobial treatments readily available for such fabrics, similar to army fatigues treated with bug repellant:

Below are the benefits of this particular treatment:

Layers will be essential to providing optimal protection as well.  Here is just a glimpse at the layers in the NASA suit:

An exoskeleton support system could reduce standing fatigue:

Fresh, pressurized, filtered and cooled air could be provided with a portable CPAP like device, mounted within the modified life support system back pack:

The addition of an aromatherapy diffuser in the back could assist in helping invigorate workers during long, stressful shifts.  A simple diffuser pad could be integrated into the air system.

We would want a streamlined, ultra-light life-support backpack:

Thermo-electric cooling would be far less cumbersome, powered by a long-lasting battery pack.  I do believe that several contact pads could transfer heat from skin to a heat sync in the pack as well.  All this could be integrated with the traditional NASA undergarment Liquid cooling and Ventilation Suit.  MIT students have also begun to develop personal, thermo-electric cooling technology:

Wristify is being developed as a personal cooling device worn as a bracelet:

Traditional undergarment cooling used by NASA:

The idea here is a land suit modeled on principles of the latest NASA space suit and life support system.

Integrating these technologies could be a very valuable goal, with various levels of support for varied healthcare environments.   

All communication(voice, vitals, power levels) should be transmitted via bluetooth to a software program that can be operated on any laptop. 

Simple example of bluetooth vitals transmition:

There is no question as to whether or not the technology exists to improve on this:

And imagine substantially reducing or eliminating the entire decontamination process, that is pretty rudimentary.  Please leave comments and suggestions.  The challenge will be a seamless integration.  But there is no need to totally reinvent the wheel.  The technologies typically available to health workers are embarrasing when we look at military and space technologies.  The priorities we encounter in this world are clearly not established according to the real needs of humanity.  This ultimately needs to change.


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Photo of David Bush

All, just to let you know, since this is a NASA centered idea, NASA KSC has used Cryogenic Life Support in highly protective suits for a long time. It solves both problems of heat and protection. We are working with USAid, & OSTP to toss out some potential ideas. At this point, the biggest obstacles we face are cost and logistics. Just to let you know that NASA is in the game and trying to lend what support we can.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi David. Great to hear that there are people with experience using suits/tech collaborating on this problem. I am curious as to how NASA became involved. Wondering how the various connections are being made around needs for this crisis. I posted an IDEA early in the challenge which asked how different industries, such as the aerospace industry, might help with these designs. So now I am curious as to how the dots are being connected in the real world. Thanks for letting us know what you are all doing and who you are collaborating with!

Photo of Tyson Sapre

Cost! Of course. It's worth spending over a billion dollars per person to get someone on the surface of the moon, but saving a few lives in Africa and limiting the spread of infection throughout the world and to healthcare workers with priceless years of experience and unique knowledge? Well now we need to draw up a budget. This kind of prioritization is so mindless, on every level. I'm being serious. I know it sounds sarcastic but I've had this sentiment since I first saw those healthcare workers on TV. Those things are garbage bags compared to space suits. And the second thought was, why isn't NASA spearheading this movement? I guess because it doesn't directly affect the space program, but I thought NASA did things like develop medicine.

The impetus for placing this idea here was the frustration I have with the state of national and international priority when it comes to sharing and deploying high-tech, government resources. I don't have in my hands the resources to make this barrier suit happen and I don't know whether or not USAID would even be interested because, based on the addenda, they want something that is cheaper, better and easier to deploy. And yet they are calling for all ideas. The original invention needs to go beyond the initial, foreseeable financial limitations. The suit has to be as perfect and modifiable as possible, then time and further research can bring the cost of technology down and make it's deployment more efficient. This is what all of us have observed with the personal computing industry. It started with a great idea, it was executed with a lot of seed money, and affordability has come with time and further invention. I'm just glad I was able to put this idea out on the web and have a handful of people see it. Thank you for updating us, David. Please, if possible, pass this sentiment along to the government community. Good luck with your work.

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