The idea first came to James Waldie during the Sydney Olympics as he watched Cathy Freeman in that bodysuit.
"I knew the reason for atrophy in space but I wondered if suits like the one Freeman wore could trick the body into thinking it was on the ground rather than in space."
If such a suit could impose normal gravity-induced loading, it would stem the extreme bone loss astronauts suffer on long-term space missions - one of NASA's major concerns.
It was a lightbulb moment that led to a remarkable breakthrough in space travel.
That innovative thought almost 15 years ago shaped the development of the next generation of indoor spacesuits for the European Space Agency.
Since then, life has flipped into fast forward for James Waldie, aerospace engineer and RMIT alumnus, who has always loved the pioneering spirit of exploration and the cutting-edge technology that takes man into space.
Working with the European Space Agency, Dr Waldie has developed a gravity-loading skin suit to be worn by astronauts inside the spacecraft.
It will make its debut on the International Space Station mid-next year when European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen will be the first to wear the suit in space.
In simple language, Dr Waldie's revolutionary gravity-mimicking skin suit stops astronauts' spines expanding in space.
It is a little known fact that astronauts can grow up to 7cms during extended space missions as their spines stretch out in microgravity conditions - a dramatic change that can cause significant pain.
Most astronauts experience long-term back problems and have a high rate of slipped dics on return to Earth.
Standing on earth, our muscles and bones are strong enough to support and move our body.
In space, however, astronauts' bones and muscles do less work to keep them upright and moving once they experience weightlessness so they can start to waste away.
"In space astronauts are just floating around without any weight or loading, so their body adapts by allowing their bones to atrophy to a much lower strength," Dr Waldie said.
"A Mars mission would take about two and a half years so you would come back with the hip bones of a 90-year-old."
The skin suit is a tailor-made with a lightweight bi-directional weave specially designed to impose a gradual increase in vertical load from the head to the feet - just like gravity on earth.
It will be tested initially for comfort and practically in a 10-day flight in pure weightlessness on the International Space Station next year.
If successful, it will be sent of a long duration mission - about six-months - looking at how astronaut health is affected.
"The primary thing they will be checking is the back and core health of the astronauts as spinal deconditioning is the main problem they want my skin suit to solve," he said.
Dr Waldie, who began working on the skin suit while undertaking a PhD in Aerospace Engineering at RMIT, went on to develop his research as a postdoctoral Scholar in the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The skin suit was developed in collaboration with scientists from MIT, Kings College London and the European Space Agency.
He has also worked as a consultant to NASA and the European Space Agency and was part of the MIT team working on astronaut Biosuits, for outdoor space use, for a possible Mars mission.
Dr Waldie, who is now back in Melbourne, was involved in all aspects of the skin suit's development - from design to testing the performance of an early prototype in weightlessness on a parabolic aircraft ride, also known as the "vomit comet".
It has been 15 years in the making but Dr Waldie said designing the skin suit had been an exhilarating and surreal experience.
Asked how he will feel when he looks into space and thinks of his suit up there, he said: "I will be very excited and very nervous, and very proud too."
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