The 2Suit Adds New Meaning to the Term ‘Mother of Invention’
Editor’s note: This story ran in the May 2009 issue.
By Jennipher Adkins
Vanna Bonta and her husband hovered in simulated zero gravity aboard Zero G Corp.’s G-Force One, a converted passenger jet that performs steep dives to suspend its occupants in weightlessness.
As History Channel cameras rolled, the couple simulated sex.
The two were wearing the 2Suit, an invention Bonta created to help humans cuddle and procreate in space. The test mission took place in September. The History Channel aired The Universe: Sex in Space in December.
The 2Suit anticipates the day when humans will colonize the cosmos – realizing the vision that late filmmaker Stanley Kubrick foretold in his classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The 2Suit owes its inspiration to when Bonta and her husband struggled to kiss while on a previous zero-gravity G-Force flight in 2004.
“It’s difficult to keep up intentional movements in microgravity,” Bonta says. ”It takes a lot of work.”
So she created a means to anchor two humans in microgravity as a built-in feature for flight apparel.
David Rajter, director of Sex in Space, worked with Bonta on the G-Force shoot.
“I got to see just how serious she was about making sure the 2Suit was a real piece of space hardware that actually worked,” he says.
Sex in space, however, is one small step.
“The possibilities,” says Bonta, “are boundless. The concept of the suit is just the beginning.”
Bonta is a bit of a renaissance woman – part poet, part physicist. Innovation, in her mind, is “strict common sense with wild imagination.”
The blend of those two disciplines manifest itself at an early age. When she was 18, the engine on her Volkswagen blew.
“I couldn’t buy a new car,” she says. “So I fixed it.”
Approaching the task as a “wonderfully predictable jigsaw puzzle,” she bought tools and parts. With the help of a friend, she dismantled, rebuilt then installed the engine.
The car ran for another 15 years.
“As an inventor, her range of creativity reaches from fashion to rocket science,” says her husband, Allen Newcomb, an engineer who designed the avionics for the hybrid rocket engine on Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne, winner of the $10 million Ansari X-Prize. “She plays like a child and creates like a genius.
“And,” he adds, “she’s hot!”
Bonta is creative director at design and engineering outfit BonNova. The company is among those in the growing field of space privatization, where orbital commerce intends to bustle around everything from energy production to space tourism.
Magnates such as Virgin founder Richard Branson and PayPal co-founder Elon Musk are visible examples of this breed. Yet the new frontier is opening the heavens to sophisticated, tech-savvy independent inventors. People like Bonta.
Witness the X Prize Foundation, which has helped launch the Google Lunar X Prize and the related Ansari X Prize. Both use a contest model to spur development of low-cost, private alternative space rockets and vehicles.
Among Bonta’s more recent inventions is a pressure-release device for high-combustion rocket engines called a Rocket Engine Over-pressurization Release Protection System or REORP. BonNova tested the device last September as part of the NASA-sponsored Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. The level-two $1.65 million prize remains on the table, and BonNova is in the running for this year’s contest.
BonNova’s lunar lander is called Lauryad, after the spaceship in Bonta’s novel Flight (Meridian House, June 1995). Lauryad performed its first test lift-off Jan. 11.
Bonta also has created the Jet show that converts from a flat to pump with the push of a button.
“A pump is dangerous in zero gravity,” she says. “But when you land, you want attractive footwear.”
Indeed, the writer, inventor and fashion-forward dreamer sees potential in reaching for the stars.
And if nothing else, the 2Suit should make solving the mysteries of the next frontier a whole lot more fun.