As promised: We’ll venture into space! Lindsay Aitchison, NASA's space suit engineer is coming to this years’ FBTB.
Lindsay Aitchison, NASA’s Deputy Project Manager for the Advanced Spacesuit Project, will be speaking at FBTB 2019. Lindsay Aitchison is one of the leading experts behind NASA’s effort to build the next generation spacesuit. Lindsay began working full-time with NASA in May 2006 and has since March 2013 had the position of Manager for the Advanced Spacesuit Project.
In an interview Aitchison said that the last spacesuits, which were designed in the 1980’s, were created under the assumption that female astronauts were basically just tiny men.
“If you know anything about clothing design, women are definitely not just smaller versions of men,” Aitchison says.
Lindsay earned a Master of Industrial and Human Factors Engineering degree from Wright State University, and a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree from Purdue University.
During the Apollo program, the crew was assigned well in advance, giving designers time to create custom spacesuits for each astronaut. Aitchison's team are now working on a modular design for NASA’s Z-2 spacesuit. Astronauts will be able to mix and match pants, gloves, sleeves, and other parts to fit their various proportions.
“Having modular spacesuits means everyone will be accommodated, but it may not be as great of a fit as a completely customized suit would be,” said Aitchison. On the other hand, if say an astronaut’s elbow joint wears down while collecting Moon dust, she’ll be able to borrow a replacement elbow from a friend.
As a space suit engineer, Lindsay gained extensive hands on experience as both test director and test subject. Her workspace is in the lab, at remote test sites, and in reduced gravity analogs including the Neutral Buoyancy Lab and NASA’s reduced gravity aircraft, affectionately known as the Vomit Comet.
As she works to perfect the suit, Aitchison says one of the major perks of her job is that she gets “to test spacesuits out in all these different environments which is just crazy cool” – from the Rockyard, NASA’s simulated alien land, to a 6.2 million gallon pool called the “Neutral Buoyancy Lab” which simulated the feeling of a spacewalk.