As of this writing, Victoria's Secret does not offer a single satin lace-up corset designed to withstand the harsh rigors of the cosmic void. Sure, the company’s lace-trim sports bra can give you comfort and support in a low-gravity environment, but no amount of frilly pink lace is going to shield you from cosmic radiation.
Outside of sci-fi fanboy dreams, space suits are a thoroughly unsexy affair. Slip one on, and you're liable to wind up looking more like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man than Barbarella — and peeling yourself out of one is none too graceful either. After all, the bottom line in extraterrestrial outerwear is survival, not sensuality .
But as space travel evolves, the emerging space tourism boom has led numerous designers to envision more visually alluring suits. And while we endlessly revise our visions of humanity's future amid the stars, a life beyond the Earth continues to loom large in everyone's mind. Hey, if you're going to dish out $200,000 for a Virgin Galactic ticket, is it so wrong to request a slimming launch suit? Of course not.
Let's try a few things on, shall we?
The BioSuit: MIT astronautics professor Dava J. Newman turned a lot of heads in 2007 when she stepped out on the town in this sleek little white, gold and green number. "Metroid" fans around the world furiously pinched themselves thinking the video game's heroine Samus Aran had arrived on Earth. The suit's design wasn't just about aesthetics, but rather creating a lightweight, flexible and comfortable take on the space suit. After all, we fantasize about actually visiting other worlds, not simply rolling around Mars in the high-tech equivalence of an inflatable sumo wrestler costume.
Much like a Victoria Secret's Dream Angel push-up bra, this suit entails a lot of spandex and nylon, all designed to provide an exceedingly tight fit. Much like the decidedly less-sexy 1970s SaSuit, the design depends on mechanical counter-pressure instead of self-contained pressurized atmosphere — at least everywhere but the helmet. Plus, getting a tear in your biosuit wouldn't be as likely to instantly boil all the blood in your body, which totally kills the mood. Am I right, ladies?
Liquid Space Suit: Sure the BioSuit design merges practicality with everyone's love for skinny jeans, but perhaps you're looking for something a little skimpier? Why not just paint the space suit directly onto your skin? This may sound like a page from someone's teenage sci-fi fantasies (or at least a "Futurama" gag), but it's actually an advanced possibility laid out in MIT's Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) Research program.
Imagine yourself standing, nearly naked, as scientists spray you down with layers of tiny charged polymer fibers. Next, they might smear on a layer of smart gel that, when treated with an electric field, expanded to apply even more counter pressure. Accessorize with a wearable computer and pressurized helmet, and you're ready to space walk in your underwear. Astronautix has a good overview of the project here.
2Suit: This is a great example of a spacewear design that, if not fashionably sexy, is at least practicably sexy. Yes, I've blogged about it before, but how can I not mention space suits designed to enable zero-gravity intercourse? Designed by former "Bastmaster" star and space enthusiast Vanna Bonta, this isn't so much a space suit as it is leisure wear for intimate moments aboard a space station. Each nondescript-looking jumpsuit unsnaps in the front, according to Wired. Then, two such suits can be snapped together to form, in it's creator's words, "a large bag" which can be strapped to the wall while the inhabitants engage awkwardly get it on.
The Discount Shelf: A bunch of remaining designs have even less practicality than the 2suit. As reported on CNN, there's been a call to arms in recent years regarding the fashion industry's future in space. At least two fashion organizations have set out to conquer space, and several fashion shows (including one at the Japan Aerospace 2008 exhibition) have unleashed a plethora of ridiculous outfits with only a nod to the real demands of space travel.
Just check out these results from 2006' Hyper Space Couture Design Contest, as beautiful and ultimately senseless as anything from "Barberella." The contest was sponsored by Rocketplane Limited, an executive for whom declared, "We don't want our customers to be wearing pressure suits and helmets." No helmets? Really? In addition to design illustrations, the linked Wired article includes thoughts from each space suit designer. They're less concerned with cosmic radiation and the vacuum, however, and more into how weightlessness affects the flow of a kimono.
As of this writing, Virgin Galactic still doesn't have a finalized space suit design, but actor and registered space tourist Victoria Principal has already requested a suit to match her eye color.
Will Branson cave to these demands? Will there be space kimonos?
How Astronauts Work
How Space Suits Work
How Space Tourism Works
Image: Welcome to space. Please dress appropriately. (Buyenlarge/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)