Expedition 2, held at Arkaroola in South Australia's Flinders Rangers (and the future site of Mars-Oz), was the first deployment of MarsSkin 3. This version included significant improvements over the previous suits. The helmet was changed to a more traditional bubble type, as the flexible gas-pressurised neck supports for the 'motorbike' type helmet of MarsSkin 2 would not be possible. This helmet was fitted with a ventilation system, drink bottle bite valve (with drink bladder in the
backpack) and a VOX radio earplug. The backpacks are from Boblbee and feature a rigid external shell for protection of the life support system internals. The volume of the pack is approximately equal to that of a real MCP suit, and represents a significant reduction in bulk and weight over gas-pressurised backpacks. This backpack is more visually appealing and realistic than the existing scuba backplate of MarsSkin 2.
The most important improvement, however, is the Skins simulation MCP layer for use under the outer layer. These Skins simulate the compression of a real MCP garment in the low pressure environment of Mars. The Skins are a poly-lycra coolmax material with sublimation printing, and wick perspiration and heat. In addition, the helmet frames are covered with the same skins material. Our thanks to Brad Duffy for his help with all the Skins input.
The MarsSkin Team conducted three sets of testing during Expedition Two to Arkaroola in outback South Australia. The three tests were:
1. Analogue Glove studies
2. Field of View tests of Helmets
3. Field tests of MarsSkin V3
Analogue Glove Studies
The analogue glove studies were conducted in conjunction with participants from the International Space University Summer Session Program 2004, and students from the University of Technology Sydney. The tests compared analogue gas-pressurised suit gloves with the analogue MCP alternative, and the naked hand. A series of realistic, repeatable tasks was designed by students from UTS. These included sample bagging, an engineering task, and using a Brunton (a common geologist's tool). Thirty subjects were involved in the test, and found that MCP gloves increase EVA task time by only 65% compared to the naked hand, instead of 232-500% for gas-pressurized gloves.
A test report is available
Helmet Field of View
The Field of View study investigated the impact that different suit helmet styles have on astronaut visibility. This was a pilot study, to be expanded in a later trial at MDRS (Mona Lisa Crew 40). The test compared the subject's normal visual range (head still and head movement allowed
respectively) with the range of vision possible inside the MarsSkin V2 helmet and the MarsSkin V3 helmet. The MarsSkin V2 helmet was a motorbike style helmet which moved with the subject's head. The helmet for V3 was a 'bubble' helmet fixed to the subject's shoulders. Vertical visual range (lowest point visible, highest point visible) was measured using a long ruler placed at successive 45degree intervals around the subject's body. The enabled the visual range to be plotted in 2-D. The study found that while the V2 helmet provides good forward vision no matter where the astronaut is looking, the V3 helmet has far better peripheral vision, which is critical for driving a rover in particular. Several improvements to the V3 helmet design were also indentified through this study. This test needs to be repeated with more subjects to remove the effect of differences in individual natural visual range.
The preliminary test report is available
MarsSkin 3.0 Field Tests
Finally, the first field tests of MarsSkin V3 were conducted at Expedition 2. This included the first trial of the new Skins inner layer and the V3 helmet design. Test participants were asked to complete a detailed survey of the suit performance after a long EVA. These responses were collated for future suit improvements.