Another Portuguese close to space: João Montenegro has a proposal for the future suit of astronauts – Multimedia

He has experience in design, physical engineering, industrial design, software development, product creation and management. He has also launched several startups and co-founded companies in industries ranging from automotive to e-commerce, education technology and space technology. And it is in this last area that, not so long ago, he gained recognition for his work: João Montenegro was among the five winners of the competition for the creation of the future ESA astronaut suit.

The competition was about the visual identity and branding of the European Space Agency, not exactly about the technical and functional details, and was open to the general public. Given the extreme conditions spacewalk suits must endure to protect astronauts, participants were challenged to design a suit instantly recognizable as belonging to an ESA astronaut.

The initiative received more than 90 ideas and a jury of ESA exploration experts reviewed the proposals, selection of five winners in a group of which João Montenegro is part.

“I discovered the project because a friend of mine from the International Space University group, Peter Deleye, challenged me to compete because he already knew my experience in designing projects for the space sector. I immediately jumped at the chance,” he said in interview at SAPO TEK.

After a few first sketches, tried to answer questions: what does an astronaut suit mean for the ESA? How to quickly distinguish a space suit from an ESA suit? What do we want to convey with this object and what is its cultural function?

João Montenegro recalls that ESA is a multifaceted entity made up of 22 Member States, 20 of which are European, including Israel and Canada, representing a celebration of cooperation between several countries with different heritages. It is this diversity that he tried to integrate into the fact.

“I used iconographic references from ESA countries to feed an image generation algorithm. Additionally, I combined these images with various attempts at ‘prompts’,” he explained.

At the time João Montenegro had recently started experimenting with artificial intelligence algorithms and for this reason “I still didn’t quite know what to expect”. He took the opportunity to say that these models “have surprisingly evolved”, since he sent the application until now. “The results at the beginning of the year were often unusable because of the number of errors and ‘mutations’ they presented”, he specifies.

At the end of these attempts, he realized that it was still too early to be able to use the images generated as final images and ended up serving as an inspirationmake collages with the generated elements and draw on the iPad Pro.

“As I had little time, it was a relatively quick project. I did everything during an intensive weekend,” revealed João Montenegro.

The retrospective processseems linear but it was quite experimental”. I used the iPad Pro with the app procreate, which uses “enough” for hand drawings and studies. When creating artificial images, Mid Road has done the honors of the house, considered “the most mature generator set on the market”, and for some 3D studies it has served the Blender“but only for a volumetric understanding of the fact”.

Click on the images for more details

João Montenegro says the spacesuit proposal it was the first full project where he intentionally used an AI model to create images as an essential part of the process. Since then, he started to explore the technology more. “Right now, I’m much more interested in the ability of artificial intelligence to turn concept drawings into engineering plans or 3D printing.”

The ending consisted of a lots of iterations and experiments.

Visual identity yes, but also some technical requirements

One of the qualities that João Montenegro wanted to emphasize in the proposal he presented was the possibility for astronauts to customize their suit with the characteristics of their culture or even their preferences personal, but there was a particular technological problem with regard to the use of color: in the environments where they are used, white has a utility in radiating the warmth of facts.

The proposal of the use of colors has proven useful in challenging current technology on this subject, he pointed out. “It’s because the use of color is central to both celebrating the humanity of the suit and utilizing the mission function and crew color coding.”

Although the competition focused on ESA’s visual identity and branding, some technical and functional details have also been considered, taking into account consider the environment in which the spacesuit would be used: on the surface of celestial bodies such as the Moon and Mars.

In addition to intense radiation and vacuum exposure, one of the main problems is regolith, a term used to refer to lunar or Martian “sand”. “This ‘sand’ is more like powdered glass, since, unlike the ground on Earth, it does not undergo erosion or react with water and living beings”, he explains before specifying that the costume has boots integrated into the fabric of the legs of the costume“in order to avoid the accumulation of regolith and its accidental transport”.

Additionally, the idea is for the helmet to have an information projector, “similar to what happens in combat helmets, to show information about the mission and the environment to the person wearing it.”

ESA promises to review João Montenegro’s proposal and the other four successful proposals and to work on fusion of elements to create a unique spatial combination.

The model obtained may have different purposesnamely, to be used to produce replica suits for exhibitions or filmmakers, to educate and inspire people about space exploration and related activities in this field.

Later, it is possible that it will be used to create training facts for ESA projects, such as CAVES and PANGEA. The competition could also have marked a first step if, in the future, ESA developed its own functional spacesuit.

“Above all, personally, it has great value in creating a relationship with the Agency and the satellite organizations for future prospectingas the project develops,” João Montenegro said of his participation.

“Furthermore, I feel great honor by being one of the few Portuguese to have managed to be part of manned space missions, a group of people that I deeply admire,” he added. “My work in this phase is over, but it continues in the form of a relationship with ESA, the Portuguese Space Agency and the other winners.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *