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Designing the 'end effectors' or gloves of a spacesuit is notoriously difficult. Hands have are extremely flexible and are the primary interface that humans use to interact physically with the world.

Current EVA suits use gas pressurized gloves with are not very easy to use, very thick, and impractical. Astronauts frequently comment on how hard it is to use these gloves and the strain it places on the hands. In development are mechanical counter-pressure gloves but these currently only score marginally better than traditional gloves, need to be tailored per person, and take a long time to don and doff.

Hard-shell deep sea diving suits frequently don't use gloves but rather have the hands in a pressurized compartment where the user actuates a mechanically linked claw which is outside of the pressurized compartment.

Questions:

  • Has NASA or other space agency ever used/investigated such a design for their EVA suit gloves?
  • Is there any research or development on more complex end effectors (Instead of just a claw; maybe semi-articulated fingers?)

Deep sea diving suit

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  • $\begingroup$ Hard-shell deep sea diving suits with a pressure difference from outside to inside of several bars could not use gloves. It would be impossible to move the fingers, blood circulation in the hands would be reduced to zero. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jun 9 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe I know the use cases are different, I'm wondering whether space suit designers should use articulated mechanical hands instead of gloves to overcome the difficulty astronauts have with them $\endgroup$ – Dragongeek Jun 9 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ But a hard-shell deep sea diving suit with gloves does not make sense. It could not be used for deep diving and for very shallow dives the hard shell is not necessary, too heavy and too expensive. So just remove the word "frequently". $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jun 9 at 21:07
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Noted science fiction author Wernher von Braun suggested "tentacle gloves" in a book he wrote in 1960. So some NASA people were at least thinking about it.

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"Bottle suits" or "pods" typically use robotic arms with some kind of mechanical end effector, here's a semi-recent example:

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