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How space suit technology is going into what you wear here on Earth

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How space suit technology is going into what you wear here on Earth

WATCH  | See some of Final Frontier Design's coolest out-of-this-world wear.

Beyond space apparel

How do you turn space suits into a viable consumer product on Earth?

That's precisely what Brooklyn-based Final Frontier Design is attempting to answer. The small business makes space suits for NASA and the commercial space industry.

They are in the process of launching a separate smart apparel business because beyond space, they have their sights set on a terrestrial market.

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The 'Earth' market

That's me at their studio testing out a lightweight, heat-proof, cold-proof jacket you could potentially wear on Mars, or maybe Colorado.

Riffing off space tech

"We can spin off some of these garment technologies that we're using in the suits, developing in the suits, whether it's resources, or processes or integration features into everyday garments," said Ted Southern, co-founder and president of Final Frontier Design.

He and co-founder Nikolay Moissev got their start making space gear in Russia before working with NASA. Fast forward a couple years, and the team now has a Space Act Agreement with NASA as well as several grants.


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Created for extreme environments

The team sees big potential for taking the textiles and techniques they use for space apparel and using it to create garments for extreme environments on Earth.


There's a lot of parallels between... extreme sports and space.
Ted Southern, president of Final Frontier Design

To infinity, and... back to Earth

"There's a lot of parallels between mountaineering, camping and climbing and extreme sports, and space, where weight is a premium, range of motion is a premium, comfort is a premium, durability, thermal protection, that sort of stuff," Southern explained.

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Creating demand on Earth

From single-layer compression pants and gloves to jackets made of Dyneema composite fabric, Final Frontier is using designs made for the needs of space to meet a demand here on Earth.


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The University of Minnesota's Wearable Tech Lab is developing tech-infused fabric to use in future smart clothing. (Photo credit: University of Minnesota, Building Pages 2015 - TC Maps )

They're not alone

Professors at the University of Minnesota's Wearable Tech Lab have been developing tech-infused textiles for earthly purposes.

Tech-infused Textiles

A booming wearable tech market (think fitness trackers, smart watches and tech-enabled accessories) and the allure of space travel has scientists and designers testing ways to build space into smart clothes.

"The space environment is just the most treacherous environment you can imagine, so if there are analogs on Earth that have some of those same dangers, then certainly what you have designed for space will be valuable on Earth," said Dr. Brad Holschuh, co-director of the university's Wearable Tech Lab.

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Photo credit: University of Minnesota's Wearable Tech Lab

Where it would be useful

For example, fabric infused with sensors or skin-tight technology that measures performance or health could be useful for extreme athletes, medical patients or firefighters.

Drawing on wearables

"One of the things that I think is really interesting about the way that wearables are developing right now is how much they're drawing on personal devices aesthetically," said Dr. Lucy Dunne, co-director of the university's Wearable Tech Lab.

"Streamlined and sleek and future looking."

By contrast, she explained, the aesthetics of currently trendy clothing and accessories right now is nostalgic and vintage. In other words, backward facing.

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Fashion industry, disrupted

"Until those two things can reconcile, I don't think we'll see like everyday clothing kind of wearables in the consumer market," she said.

Still, the demand on Earth for next-generation garments could completely disrupt the global retail industry -- which eMarketer expects to reach $28 trillion by 2018 -- especially if more companies join the commercial space apparel race.

"If it went that way, it would upend the entire fashion system," Dunne said.

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