These 2 Guys in Brooklyn Want to Build the Space Suit of the Future

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This is a story about Nik Moiseev and Ted Southern. It is also a story about a Russian engineer and an American artist. It is also a story about a Brooklyn startup. It is also a story about space travel.

Moiseev had spent over two decades working in the Soviet Union (and then in Russia) as an engineer of spacesuits -- specifically, of garments that cosmonauts could wear as they rode the Soyuz rocket up to the International Space Station. Southern, meanwhile, was an artist and sculptor who had been focusing his skills on fashion design. (One of his signatures: the angel wings that lingerie-clad models wear in Victoria's Secret runway shows.)

The two were, in other words, an odd couple of sitcomic proportions. But they were drawn together by a common problem -- a problem that, in its way, affects all of us here on Earth: the fact that space suits sort of suck. The suits astronauts wear while doing spacewalks, in particular -- which are, in essence, "spaceships for one" -- are unwieldy. And their gloves, even more particularly, effectively undo the manual dexterity that thousands of years of evolution endowed to humans. So NASA, for 2007, issued a Centennial Challenge -- a contest meant to encourage extra-agency innovations -- to design the next generation of space-traveling gloves. Moiseev, the engineer, and Southern, the designer, each entered the contest, independently; each one lost. But they stayed in touch with each other after the contest ended -- and, when the next NASA challenge rolled around, two years later, they entered it together.

This time, they won second prize in the contest -- which led to a $100,000 grant from NASA to develop their five-finger glove that outperformed NASA's own technology at the time. They used the money to launch Final Frontier Design, a Brookyn-based startup focusing on out-of-this-world garments. The rest, as the video above makes clear, is history -- and, just maybe, future.

For more from David Feinberg, visit his site.

Via Motherboard's Spaced Out.

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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