University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

Space Studies team takes NDX space suit system to ‘Mars’

A senior scientist from the NASA Ames Research Center in California puts a new UND designed Mars space suit through a workout recently in the Utah desert.

A senior scientist from the NASA Ames Research Center in California puts a new UND designed Mars space suit through a workout recently in the Utah desert.

Two graduate students from Space Studies, Annie Wargetz and Timothy Holland, recently returned from a trip to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) near Hanksville, Utah, for field testing of the NDX-1 (North Dakota eXperimental-1), the only university-developed space suit in the United States.

The students were accompanied by Pablo de Leon, also from Space Studies. De Leon, an Argentine aerospace engineer and senior research associate at UND, is the principal investigator for the space suit project and director of the Human Spaceflight Laboratory at the Odegard School.

Wargetz, Holland, and de Leon met up with Crew #112 of the MDRS to conduct geologic testing in the desert area around the station; to conduct space suit mobility testing; and to collect bio-medical data. A senior scientist from NASA Ames Research Center in California partnered with de Leon for this week of research.

The MDRS crew collected geologic data while wearing civilian clothes with communication and bio-medical equipment. Then they donned the NDX-1 to repeat the geological data collection. Bio-medical data—including respiration and pulse rates—was collected on each person.

Wargetz and Holland gained crucial information as to how the NDX-1 allows or inhibits scientists from performing their data collection tasks.

Funding for this research trip was provided by the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium.

About the UND Human Spaceflight Laboratory

Since 2004, dozens of dedicated individuals, including students, faculty, and experts, have contributed to incorporating a human spaceflight component to the Space Studies Department at UND. The UND Human Spaceflight Laboratory provides relevant, real-world experience to students from all over the world. The Laboratory offers formal involvement in Graduate/Undergraduate Research Positions, NASA projects, and activities related to human spaceflight. This involvement contributes to enriching an education in the space arena.

The first two main outcomes of our research are our two space suits prototypes. UND is the first university with a NASA-funded laboratory dedicated to designing and constructing space-exploration and planetary surface exploration suits. Our first suit, the North Dakota Experimental-1 (NDX-1) suit, was designed for use on the surface of Mars. Our second suit, the North Dakota Experimental-2 (NDX-2) suit, was designed for testing in lunar simulations.

UND is also the first university with two fully operational spaceflight simulators. These simulators, which are part of the Human Spaceflight Laboratory initiative, are based on real-life models. The first simulator is based on NASA’s Apollo capsule, while the other is a mock-up of SpaceShip One, the world’s first privately-owned, successful space vehicle.

Useful links:

For more information, contact Pablo de León, senior research associate, director, Space Suit Laboratory, at 777-2369 or

-- Juan Miguel Pedraza, writer/editor, University Relations, 777-6571,

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