Space is unpredictable. You never know what may happen the next moment or how quickly things can go from "flying safe" to "abort mission".
In such situations, working and doing all kinds of science can stress out astronauts. They may skip recreational sessions, miss their friends and family, lose nights of sleep, and ultimately end up being depressed.
This is why a group of researchers from Florida Polytechnic University are working on a revolutionary technology, which, when embedded into next-gen spacesuits and clothing, could sense mental stress and take appropriate countermeasures in real time.
Smart Sensory Skin, or just S3, will use a range of wireless sensors to detect physical and psychological stressors.
Once marked, the tech will automatically make changes matching an astronaut's specific needs. This would include things like tweaking cabin temperature, light exposure, light colour, and oxygen levels to keep the person in question relaxed.
"It's vital for astronauts to be mentally healthy during missions and right now there's no active, real-time solution to help them when they feel stressed or anxious," said Arman Sargolzaei, a professor at the university. "This technology would provide them with immediate relief to their state of mind."
Nasa has funded the work on the novel system in a bid to make its spacefarers happier, safer, fitter, and more productive than ever.
Unlike conventional health-monitoring gear, the so-called "happy suit" will focus on improving efficiency and comfort-level of the astronauts.
It will be lighter, more ergonomic, and keep relaying information regarding the astronaut's blood-pressure, pulse-rate, and other bodily functions to physicians on Earth. This would be a major plus over traditional techniques where health data is first collected over a long period of time and then reviewed to introduce any major changes in the astronaut's routine.
It is unclear when the S3 system will be ready for use. Nasa might integrate the tech into the spacesuits of Orion astronauts, who will set out on a deep-space journey via SLS rocket sometime in 2023.