TMO: The Mars Odyssey. Alexandra Lucas

_MG_9013Alexandra Lucas’s TMO: The Mars Odyssey, is a conceptual collection of Jacquard and Dobby woven conceptual fabrics that make up the six protective layers of a Mars Exploration Suit.

Her work can be seen at The Lethaby Gallery, London N1c 4AA within   ‘The Intelligent Optimist’ Exhibition,  a London Design Festival event 2015. 19th Sept – 17th Oct 2015.

Alexandra has woven concept textiles for: a radiation layer, 3 pressure layers, an oxygen and temperature layer, as well as a sensory membrane layer which detects the biometrics of the body.

She anticipates that after a period of time human bodies would start adapting to the conditions of Mars. Thus, if a layer is no longer needed it could be taken off to reveal the next layer. In the end,  the Mars Exploration Suit would enable humans to evolve and adapt over time and the suit itself would be no longer needed.

The collection was initially inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Alexandra was interested in how Kubrick viewed the future: it was positive, full of excitement about space travel, but at the same time he had a flavour of realism about it.spacesuit (11 of 59)

As a result of this, she decided to play around with the future of space travel herself. She visited the Mars Yard in the Airbus defence and space centre in Stevenage and  her inspiration was  the current fascination with space and colonisation of Mars, as well as the beautiful HiRISE images of the planet and its alien landscapes.

In a sense, the final collection  became a collection of memorabilia (Jacquard woven space mission badges are also part of the collection) from a fictional space mission.

Since this was a conceptual project, the final woven fabrics are a non-functional representation of what the layers might look like, with a number of materials substituted for ones which were readily available.

During her research she explored  the function of each layer in her imagined scenario.

The radiation layer would protect the wearer against the strong radiation on Mars (higher than that on Earth). The layer is woven of and lined with mylar, which would reflect a high proportion of the radiation. The fluorescent yarn used in combination with the mylar also emits its own light reflective, as well as giving better control of the final aesthetic of the sample.

The three pressure layers are based on research into  the Apollo mission suits. A lightweight pressure layer with fabric vents, a neoprene coated layer and an elastic restraint layer. These would all protect the body against the low pressure, which is about 5-10 mb, about 100 times thinner than our atmosphere.

The next layer was a temperature & oxygen layer, with heating element cables (the temperature on Mars is very low, rough average -50C, it can get down to about -120 and up to about 10 C depending on latitude and season) and also integrated oxygen tubes within the woven structure.

io2The final  layer is the sensory membrane layer which would detect and monitor the biometrics of the body – this layer uses conductive yarns and e textile approaches. Thanks to this layer the user would know how the body is adapting to the conditions of Mars and whether one of the layers is no longer needed.

Just like the colonisers of the 19th and 20th centuries, Alexandra believes that we should see it as our duty to explore new lands. She hopes that through her project and through futuristic design, people can expand their imagination and dream of space travel as something possible; as science fiction which maybe one day could be a reality. Perhaps if we thought about the future in this way, we could create it even if at the moment it would seem impossible.

About The Intelligent Optimist exhibition

The Intelligent Optimist showcases the best design work coming out of Central Saint Martins, an institution renowned internationally for asking difficult questions and coming up with inventive answers. Operating across most design disciplines, the exhibition presents shots of hope and canny intelligence.

Dates:  Saturday 19 September – Saturday 17 October incl at Lethaby Gallery, Central Saint Martins, Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, King’s Cross, London N1C 4AA.

For information on ease of access please call 020 7514 7444.
Nearest station and underground: King’s Cross St Pancras, Regent’s Canal Exit 47

Opening Hours:
From 19-27 September, during London Design Festival:Saturday & Sunday: 12-5pm
Monday 21 September: 10-3pm (closing early for a private event), Tuesday – Friday: 10-6pm

From 28 September to 17 October:
Weekdays: 10-6pm
Saturdays only: 12-5pm


Talks/workshops/demos/performances: Events are free, with limited numbers and sign up via Eventbrite here. Designers taking part include Natha Khunprasert, Marta Bordes, Evangeline Pesigan, Caroline Angiulo, Ana Quinones, Emil Kozole, Yuxi Sun, Pan Wang, Jaime Tai, Abay Zhumagulov, Hortense Duthilleux, Paulina Lenoir Guajardo, Ava Asaadi & Camille Auclair.

Images and text: Alexandra Lucas

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