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Students' spacesuit to be tested in Utah

The University of North Dakota's Fabio Sau tries out a prototype Mars spacesuit in the Badlands.
The University of North Dakota's Fabio Sau tries out a prototype Mars spacesuit in the Badlands.UND
/ Source: The Associated Press

A spacesuit developed by students at the University of North Dakota and four other schools will be tested in the Utah desert.

UND officials said researchers from the school will travel with the spacesuit to Utah during the first week in April, and students from the Spaceward Bound education program will help the designers test the suit at Utah's Mars Desert Research Station.

The Spaceward Bound program is sponsored by NASA in cooperation with the Mars Society, a group devoted to promoting Mars exploration, and seeks to train students in space-related fields, its Web site says.

Researcher Pablo de Leon, a UND aerospace engineer, said the testing in Utah will offer the chance to solve problems in the same way an astronaut would be forced to do on Mars.

"We test the suit all the time in a controlled environment," he said. "But in the field things are different, so we have to learn to conduct the kind of research we'll do one day on the moon or Mars. When you're millions of miles from earth, you can't just come back because you forgot something."

De Leon said UND also will benefit from a stronger relationship with NASA's Ames Research Center, which manages the Spaceward Bound program.

UND tested the spacesuit in western North Dakota last May. It was developed by students from UND, North Dakota State University, Dickinson State, the state College of Science and Turtle Mountain Community College, using a $100,000 NASA grant.