UND space suit image displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

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John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences


Poster of UND's famous astronaut outfit is part of Smithsonian's 'Suited for Space' exhibit

The University of North Dakota's NDX-1 -- a planetary exploration, or "space" suit -- has made it to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, one of the world's largest and most frequented museums.

The UND display is part of Smithsonian's "Suited for Space" exhibit, which opened late last month. The exhibit was organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and has already appeared at numerous locations across the country. It made its original appearance at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago in April 2011 and explores the evolution of spacesuit development from the early 20th century until the beginning of the space shuttle era.

"It is just a poster of our suit in the display, but is very important that we are present in that highly regarded exhibit and place, along with Apollo, Gemini and Mercury historical space suits," said UND Space Studies research faculty member Pablo de Leon, an aeronautical engineer who designed and, with a student team, built and tested the NDX-1 system.

De Leon is now at work on the NDX-2 system, which includes a suit, a rover, and a habitat -- all designed for the inhospitable environments of other planets. Space Studies Department is part of the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Studies; the department celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.

According to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum website, Suited for Space reveals the remarkable creativity and ingenuity of nearly a century of flight and spacesuit design and development. Through rare and original photography, including unique new x-ray images of spacesuit interiors, the exhibition reveals how the modern technological marvel that is the spacesuit enables astronauts to live and work in space. Suited for Space was organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in partnership with the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

About the UND Human Spaceflight Laboratory

Since 2004, dozens of dedicated individuals, including students, faculty, and experts, have contributed to incorporating a human spaceflight component to the Space Studies Department at UND. The UND Human Spaceflight Laboratory provides relevant, real-world experience to students from all over the world. The Laboratory offers formal involvement in Graduate/Undergraduate Research Positions, NASA projects, and activities related to human spaceflight. This involvement contributes to enriching an education in the space arena.

The first two main outcomes of our research are our two space suits prototypes. UND is the first university with a NASA-funded laboratory dedicated to designing and constructing space-exploration and planetary surface exploration suits. Our first suit, the North Dakota Experimental-1 (NDX-1) suit, was designed for use on the surface of Mars. Our second suit, the North Dakota Experimental-2 (NDX-2) suit, was designed for testing in lunar simulations.

UND is also the first university with two fully operational spaceflight simulators. These simulators, which are part of the Human Spaceflight Laboratory initiative, are based on real-life models. The first simulator is based on NASA's Apollo capsule, while the other is a mock-up of SpaceShip One, the world's first privately-owned, successful space vehicle.