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NOVA ScienceNOW

Historic Space Suits

  • By Susan K. Lewis
  • Posted 11.11.10
  • NOVA scienceNOW

If you were suddenly transported to the moon, clothed as you are now, your body would suffer a gruesome assault—temperatures as low as -380°F, a barrage of UV radiation, no oxygen to breathe, and perhaps worst of all, no air pressure—causing the dissolved gas in your blood to bubble. In this slide show, see how space-suit design evolved to allow humankind's giant leap onto the moon and beyond.

Launch Interactive

See classic images from Projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo as well as space-suit prototypes that never made the cut.

Sources

Thomas, Kenneth S. and Harold J. McMann. 2006. US Spacesuits. Springer Praxis Books.

Credits

Special thanks to Kenneth S. Thomas for providing editorial review of this slide show.

Images

(WWII Oxygen Pipes, U-2 Pilot Suits)
Courtesy Hamilton Sundstrand
(Project Mercury, Prototype for X-15 Program, Project Gemini, First American Spacewalk, Apollo 11 Moonwalk, First Untethered Spacewalk)
Courtesy NASA
(Suits Considered for Lunar Mission, Spherical Experiment #1)
© Springer/Praxis

Related Links

  • Next-Generation Space Suits

    Today's suits are notoriously bulky. MIT's Dava Newman is out to change that with a radical, and sleek, new design.

  • Life of an Astronaut

    In this video, veteran spacewalker Mike Massimino talks about the challenges of training to work in space.

  • First Man on the Moon

    He risked his life for the nation and became a world icon, but who was Neil Armstrong?

  • Profile: Dava Newman

    Dava Newman develops ergonomic space suits for NASA and has circumnavigated the world in her sailboat.

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