As Matt Damon has proved beyond doubt, wandering around on Mars takes one hell of a cool space suit. NASA’s current suits—and suit-testing protocols—aren’t up to snuff, and it wants your help making something better.
In a dryly-worded press release, NASA has said that it “is seeking proposals for test methods or procedures to assess wear/damage to candidate space suit textile materials”. In other words: NASA needs cool (and scientific!) ways to destroy space suits. Now this is my kind of crowdsourcing campaign.
The tests will need to simulate the wear and tear of extraterrestrial (read: Martian/lunar) dirt and dust, specifically abrasion resistance, and the mode of failure: does a failing fabric do so slowly, or all in one go?
NASA’s best current suggestion seems to be sticking scraps of material in a tumble-dryer with dirt, and seeing how long it takes to break. If you’ve got better suggestions, send ‘em in: NASA is expecting to award $5,000 to the three best ideas.