Space clothes saving the lives of Earthlings

PARIS, June 29, 2006 (AFP) – From bras and babysuits equipped with monitors to tough suits to protect sportsmen and adventurers from the hazards of life on Earth, space technology is boldly pushing back fashion frontiers. “The space programme has over the years provided a catalyst for a lot of the progress we are seeing today in textiles,” said David Raitt, technology transfer and promotions officer with the European Space Agency (ESA).

“We are using the software, experience and know-how of space technology for a purpose for which it was not originally meant.”

The extremes of the space environment — temperatures ranging from searing cold to furnace hot, cosmic radiation, low gravity and blinding sunlight — have all set scientists huge challenges.

Some 400 million euros (500 million dollars) out of the agency’s average annual three billion euro budget is spent on research and development, and now many on Earth are reaping the benefits of such specialised technology.

ESA has spent years developing lightweight fabrics to reduce the cost of space missions, with every kilo launched into space costing 10,000 euros, Rait said at the opening of an exhibition of space technology clothing here.

The result has