WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. (AP) - Coming up with a glove to be worn in the void of space is not a typical design challenge, but an engineer from Maine has impressed NASA with a design he came up with at his kitchen table. Peter Homer, 45, won $200,000 in NASA's "Astronaut Glove Challenge" at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks this week.
"I was a little surprised, but I'm definitely very happy about it," he said Friday.
Homer, of Southwest Harbor, Maine, said he'll use the money "to buy food and pay the mortgage."
His design beat out two other submitted by an international team of engineers and a costume designer from Brooklyn who worked with Victoria Secret models.
Homer said he bought materials from Home Depot and eBay. He used fabric, metal, aluminum and, for the gloves' inner liner, latex kitchen gloves.
NASA's current glove, designed by Hamilton Sundstrand, has had its problems.
Ken Davidian, program manager for NASA's Centennial Challenges, said astronauts' hands get tired and blistered inside the pressurized glove as they push against multiple layers of cloth to operate in an external vacuum.
"It's very hard to make a glove that adapts and fits pretty well," Davidian said.
The gloves also must be airtight.
In a test where water is slowly pumped into the glove, Homer's winning prototype gave out at 21.2 pounds of pressure, more than three times the limit of a competitor. Onlookers warily backed away as the needle inched up the meter, but the gloves didn't burst so much as slowly leak.
Gary L. Harris, who has worked for years on deep sea diving equipment and was a member of an engineering team in the contest, said the glove is actually its own space suit.
"Nobody to this day has made a glove that's 100 percent satisfactory and probably no one will," he said. "All we can do is alleviate the problem."
Dave Steitz, a spokesman for NASA in Washington, D.C., said the space agency has not made a commitment to use Homer's glove.
"We're trying to encourage an innovative design that we may use in the future," he said. "We're always looking for a better glove."