Outfitting the Next Generation of Space Explorers
Greg Quinn ’00 M.Eng. ’00 remembers his first foray into the universe of space suit technology. It was 2003, and he was working on a “chameleon suit” for the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts. “We were exploring really far-out ideas that possibly wouldn’t be real for 30 years into the future,” he says.
Last year, however, Quinn’s team at Collins Aerospace, an RTX business, won the coveted contract to replace NASA’s existing International Space Station suit and recently, an award to cross-develop a suit that will provide extravehicular activity suits for the Artemis missions to the moon in 2025. The new spacesuit, called an extravehicular mobility unit, will offer environmental protection, mobility, life support and communications for astronauts outside their spacecraft.
Quinn, 46, is chief engineer and architect for the new suit’s portable life support system. He says one Eureka moment toward that quest came as he was redesigning the system’s heat exchanger.
We’re making our new space suit vastly safer, more capable, and user friendly than any other suit ever built.
Using his expertise in thermal dynamics — Quinn received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from University of Connecticut in 2009 — he applied advanced manufacturing technologies and materials science to make the device half its normal weight. The improvement marks an important step toward making space exploration more inclusive.
“Today’s spacesuit only fits a little over half of the crew members,” he says. “This new suit has to fit from the 5th to the 95th percentile of people … We’re making it vastly safer, more capable, and user friendly than any other suit ever built, setting the stage for a generation of new explorers to step foot on the moon and Mars.
“These are the ongoing engineering challenges that get me excited every day,” he says.
“It’s an honor and privilege to work on such a highly visible symbol of our nation’s space exploration program.”
Raised in East Hanover, New Jersey, Greg Quinn and his identical twin brother Mike ’00 M.Eng. ’00 received scholarships to Stevens, roomed together, and graduated together with their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. They both also achieved a 4.0 average. Mike Quinn is now vice president of design and engineering of U.S. operations for SteriPack.
“The Stevens Cooperative Education Program, combined with the classroom education and the fantastic professors, helped us both understand how to take initiative and how to follow through on solving even simple problems,” Quinn says. “That attitude has really helped me throughout my career.”
— Linell Smith