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April 12th, 2012
Astronaut underwear wins students a cool $5,000
An old NASA idea for keeping astronauts cool could finally become reality. U.S. high school students recently won $5,000 to make spacesuit undergarments using materials that can absorb heat without changing temperature, Space.com reports. Today’s NASA astronauts must wear stretchy underwear with 300 feet of tubes carrying chilled water to avoid overheating during long spacewalks. The students from West Salem High School in Oregon proposed making lighter undergarments by using phase-changing crystals—materials that are able to stay the same temperature during phase changes (such as solid ice melting into liquid water).
“If you stitch phase-changing crystals into clothing, you could also design phase-changing crystals to only change at a certain temperature,” said Michael Lampert, a physics teacher at West Salem High School and coach of the “Infinity” student team. “You could go on a spacewalk and not have the problem of carrying a liquid-cooled ventilation system.”