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I'm currently developing a world in which humanity has colonized Mars. Armed bandit attacks are common, and military enforcers are necessary to eliminate these threats.

Most combatants use firearms in this universe.

I'm aware that even a slight breach in a space suit offworld results in depressurization and death. To my understanding, even a slight graze of a bullet on a space suit will result in death. What kind of armor plate (material, thickness, and structure) would be able to effectively stop a bullet (generic intermediate powered rifle round at most, such as a 7.62x39 round out of an AK line rifle) from puncturing a suit?

Gravity is lower on Mars, so I would be fine with slightly heavier armors, but make sure a person would be able to move around properly while wearing the armor. I would like the armor to cover the same approximate areas as, say, stormtrooper armor would, to make sure that non-critical areas, if hit by a bullet, don't cause death.

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    $\begingroup$ Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 17:34
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    $\begingroup$ Self-healing polymers might be worth adding into the mix. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ body armor performance standards: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_body_armor_performance_standards $\endgroup$
    – Yorik
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ Where do these bandits get their bullets? They have a manufacturing plant somewhere? $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ What kind of bullet, and what kind of firearm? It is not particularly hard to armor a soldier against pistol bullets, but there is reasonable way to armor an individual soldier against machine-gun bullets. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Dec 7, 2023 at 16:02

5 Answers 5

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Step one: don't use pressurized suits... use mechanical counterpressure. This is a good excuse to have all your peeps wear skintight figure hugging future clothes, in case you needed one. You probably still need a pressurised helmet, but the rest of the suit can be gas-free, meaning that punctures can result in injury, but needn't necessarily threaten breathing or bodily integrity.

Step two: carry a puncture repair kit. You can end up with nasty pressure bruising if the suit's integrity is compromised, and you risk forceful leakage of precious bodily fluids if the puncture wound extends through the skin underneath. Patch up the holes quickly.

Step three: just wear whatever body armor you would on Earth, as appropriate to the weapons you're facing. Trajectories will be flatter on Mars, and projectiles and fragments will retain lethal velocities for much longer, but if your equipment can withstand an impact at close range of Earth it'll do just fine at longer ranges on Mars. Quite what that will look like will depend on your tech level... conservatively, plates and sheets of the same super hard ceramics and densely woven UHMWPE of the sort you can buy nowadays, but future super-materials always make things better if they're available.

For current-day equivalents, look up some body armor performance standards. There are many, many different national standards (PM7, SK3, HG3, the list goes on and I got bored of looking) but that should tell you that the technology and equipment is readily available.

Remember that Martian gravity means you can carry heavier things, but it doesn't take their inertia away, and you can become ungainly and unmaneuverable before you become overloaded.

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Self-sealing rubber lining

i'm aware that even a slight breach in a space suit on mars or the moon results in depressurization and death. to my understanding, even a slight graze of a bullet on a space suit will result in death.

Not immediately; it can take a few minutes. Here's a space.stackexchange discussion on it.

If you can't simply stick some tape on the hole to keep it sealed long enough to get out of the combat zone (and possibly get medical attention), then you can design the suit so that it seals its own holes. Some tires do this by having an inner fluid lining that expands to plug up a hole in the case of a sudden pressure change. That'll be a lot lighter than rigid bulletproof armor. It doesn't have to be perfect — just good enough to slow the leak until you can get help.

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    $\begingroup$ This is super simple and helpful, thanks for the input! $\endgroup$
    – alkahest
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 19:34
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A water ice mountain shaped into a shield, coated with a thin epoxylaxer to keep it together. Space makes it easy to transport, gyros easy to whirl around, although inertia is a harsh misstress.

  • Water if hit with too much force, evaporates, creating steam that takes up large volumes, derailing projectiles.

  • If controlled by a drone, the user does not even have to be actively duck into cover behind his autonomous shield iceberg. And if only one opponent remains, the berg can be send to ram.

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I have a couple of ideas:

  1. Perhaps the suits are self repairing. This is similar to the repair kit solution previously mentioned, but what I'm talking about here leverages nanotechnology. Beyond that, the same technology could even perform first aid on bullet wounds.

  2. Also helpful would be a device that creates something like a 10' sphere that bends light and obfuscates the soldier, making them harder to target.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi Eric, your first option was already given as an answer (in more detail) by parasoup, and your second option is not a direct answer to the question. $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 8:49
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Depending on how sci-fi you want to go, there are several options. The options others have given are good, but in addition I can add:

  1. Make up a material. You can decide what properties it has, and write accordingly. A layered structure of ceramic and pliable fabric? A new metal alloy? Fungus-hide? It's up to you.

  2. Exaggerate the capabilities of a known material. You can do that in fiction. It is allowed.

  3. Something with expanding foam. If you want a solution that uses real materials but is different from real world armor, this is my suggestion to you: A suit that uses the power of vacuum to rapidly inflate a foamy substance when the surface is breached. There would have to be some rigidness and padding on the inside to alleviate bruising and to enhance the bullet-stopping capabilities, perhaps this is an extra layer over what we have today. The expansion of the foam would counteract (some of) the force of the bullet, and if the foam turns rigid fast, it would also temporarily "heal" the breach. This would probably be most efficient against gracing bullets and glancing blows, the expansion could "shove" the bullet off course while it also looses momentum.

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