Spacesuits in Fiction - After First Real Space Flights - Skintight Spacesuits

Skintight Spacesuits

The potential for greater mobility and simpler operation with a skintight spacesuit, generally referred to as a space activity suit or mechanical counterpressure suit, make this type of space suit an attractive choice for fiction, where flexibility of use can be a boon to plot development.

Some space story writers whose work mentions flexible skin-tight spacesuits include:

  • The spacesuits in early Buck Rogers comics seem to be skintight.
  • Jerry Pournelle, who has been extensively involved in analysis and design of space technology systems. Pournelle envisions a layered design where the inner flexible suit can be overlain with various kinds of thermal protection or armor, for protection against meteoroids or space battle damage, in the same way a flak jacket protects the occupants of a warplane. Skintight spacesuits first appeared in recent science fiction in Pournelle's novel Exiles To Glory in 1977.
  • A. Bertram Chandler.
  • Grant Callin's Saturnalia and A Lion on Tharthee feature 'micropore suits' which use minute gas bubbles in foam rather than mechanical tension to provide counterpressure in vacuum.
  • Stephen Baxter's Manifold series, notably Manifold: Time, covers the technical aspects of using a skintight suit for short EVAs, including the need to don the suit without creasing to prevent embolisms.
  • In Larry Niven's Known Space, skintights are the preferred type of spacesuit used by belters in the 22nd and 23rd century. They often decorated them with elaborate (and expensive) torso paintings as a form of heraldry. Pournelle's design in particular is featured in some of Niven's later Ringworld novels.
  • Victor Koman in Kings of the High Frontier.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson used suits called "Walkers" that work on a similar principle for Martian surface exploration in the Mars Trilogy novels.
  • Roger Leloup in the adventures of Yoko Tsuno
  • In Spider & Jeanne Robinson's novel Stardance (1979) they played a significant role.
  • Skinsuits feature rather prominently in the Honorverse books by David Weber.
  • In EA Games's Dead Space series, engineers and miners use an airtight suit called a RIG when working in the vacuum of space or an otherwise unsafe environment.
  • In L. Neil Smith's novel The Venus Belt, the protagonist describes in some detail a skin-tight Smartsuit which is capable of furnishing not only life support in various types of hostile environments, but also limited medical treatment for the wearer. The suit also functions as a powerful wearable computer, with the circuitry, displays, and controls integrated into the fabric of the suit. In the novel, the suit is, as a matter of tradition, included in the price of a space-liner ticket to Ceres. The character notes that a properly fitted Smartsuit leaves the wearer feeling "completely naked...a testament to the makers' art." Most spacefarers live in their Smartsuits for indefinite periods, as the suit can handle waste management and hygiene for the wearer.

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