Monster of the Week: Ro-Man Extension XJ-2

Ro-Man! Moviepix/archive/Getty

Ro-Man Extension XJ-2 is often relegated to the world of stupid-looking monsters and it has everything to do with first impressions. Is that a gorilla with a robot's head or a robot with a gorilla's body?

Indeed, it's a weird first impression for an extraterrestrial ambassador to make on an impressionable young planet like Earth. But hey, since Ro-Man's primary mission is to destroy all life on Earth, it hardly manners. He could have worn sweatpants, really.

But of course we never see the real Ro-Man Extension XJ-2 in the film "Robot Monster." The form we see is a mere space suit, providing the alien destroyer bodily protection against poisonous alien environments and the hostile challenges of outer space. Plus those muscles come in handy for brutalizing the natives.

Organic Space Suits

(Image by Jenny Ekdahl)

Humans have largely ignored the benefits of organic space suits in favor of artificial materials. Our skills at genetic manipulation simply arn't quite there yet, but it doesn't stop us from dreaming.

Just consider designer Jenny Ekdahl's NASA-sponsored "Organic Space Suit." Here's her statement:

The Organic Space Suit is an organic skin tight space suit concept that is radiation resistant due to that it is made of an organic genetically modified bacteria and plant material. Research was made at Johnson Space Center and NASA facilities in Houston during two weeks. Presented at NASA, Houston to Larry Toups, chief architect NASA/JSC. The project illustrates our dependence and alikeness to nature in a non-human environment like on Mars by embracing the astronaut with low-tech plants as a high-tech radiation resistant garment. With every breath exhaled, the carbon dioxide and moisture facilitate the germination of the embedded culture. The lines works as an exoskeleton to keep a good pressure for the astronaut, and as the suit has taken root in the bacteria bath it can be planted directly into the Martian soil.

The Hairy Space Suit

But Ro-Man isn't a fan of genetically modified bacteria and plant material. No, he prefers the heated, muscular comfort of vat-grown mammalian flesh. Bones and cartilage provide the suit's structure. Muscles and ligaments provide power-assist (much like NASA's Human Grasp Assist device or Robo-Glove) and anti-zero-G resistance for the wearer (as with the Russian Penguin suit, that employed elastic bands and pulleys).

And don't knock all that black fur! Not only does it insulate the wearer and provide additional protection against blunt trauma and/or animal bites, it also provides just a slight bit of protection against harmful UV rays.

Monster of the Week is a - you guessed it - regular look at the denizens is of our monster-haunted world. In some of these, we'll look at the possible science behind a creature of myth, movie or legend.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.