As of June 13, 584 people have flown to space, and every one of these individuals has something in common, a Spacesuit. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has blown our minds in the form of a new spacesuit design. This spacesuit is nothing like NASA has ever designed.
SpaceX’s space suit is fitted with the most advanced technology and a superior design theme that literally makes fun of every spacesuit made by NASA and embarrasses them. NASA doesn’t want to admit that it got humiliated by the private space exploration company’s design.
Before now, spacesuits had just one purpose, to keep astronauts alive in the event of a fire, unexpected depressurization, or some kind of unforeseen calamity. As space opens up for tourism and not just scientific research, the design of spacesuits is beginning to change.
A Spacesuit is like a small spacecraft. It’s not just clothing astronauts wear in space. Although it has been regarded as space fashion. The Spacesuit is made up of many separate parts with the sole purpose of protecting the wearer.
The helmet protects the head, and the legs and feet are protected by another part, while the chest and arms are protected by separate parts of the suit. Every space suit is made up of different layers that serve different purposes.
Some layers are designed to keep oxygen in the suit, while others are there to protect against space dust. Under the suit, astronauts wear a piece of clothing that covers every part of their body except the head, hands, and feet.
Tubes are woven into this piece of clothing, and its function is to keep the astronauts cool by having water flow through these tubes. On the back of the spacesuit, you have a backpack. This backpack holds oxygen for astronauts to breathe. It also takes care of the carbon dioxide breathed out by the astronaut.
The backpack supplies electricity to power the suit, a fan to help oxygen move around the suit, and a water tank for the cooling water. Like in the movies, spacesuits used in space have a tool called SAFER. This tool has several small thruster jets.
If an astronaut floats away from the space station, the SAFER can be used to fly back to the station. A spacesuit helps astronauts in many ways. It keeps them from getting too hot or cold. It’s a lifeline that keeps them breathing when they have to work in the airless void of space.
Space dust might not sound very dangerous, but it moves faster than a bullet and can hurt people. Every spacesuit is designed to protect astronauts from space dust. Some designs have special gold-lined visors to help protect the astronauts’ eyes from bright sunlight. Space suits have taken different design turns over the years.
The Mercury Suit – 1961 to 1963
The Mercury Space suit was worn by NASA’s first seven astronauts. It was called the mercury seven. The Mercury Mark IV suit was borrowed from US Navy pilots. It is quite similar to the outfits worn during high-altitude flights.
NASA adjusted the suit, adding the aluminum-coated nylon outer shell to improve thermal control and special gloves for better finger control. It also employed new straps and zippers to ensure a tighter fit. This suit was touted as what an actual Space Suit should be like and it was used throughout the Mercury era.
The Gemini Suit – 1965 -1966
The Gemini Space suit opened the door to space exploration. It represented NASA’s first attempt to carry out a spacewalk. The Gemini mission was NASA’s space program with more ambitious goals.
The Gemini suit was designed by the David Clark Company. Extra steps were taken to make them more comfortable than the Mercury suits; they could be connected to a portable air conditioner to keep astronauts cool till they could connect to the spacecraft’s lines.
The suits weighed about 16 to 34 pounds and are designed to be flexible when pressurized. The Gemini Spacewalk suit is a type of Gemini Suit called the G4C. It was designed with Spacewalk in mind, and astronauts could leave the safety of their spacecraft in this suit.
The suit is connected to the spacecraft via a hose to supply astronauts with oxygen and keep them alive. If the astronaut gets disconnected, the suit offers up to 30 minutes of backup life support.
Apollo Spacewalk Suit – 1967 -1975
With the Apollo space suit, Man walked on the moon. Landing on the moon was not a walk in the park. Astronauts needed more protection than the Gemini or Mercury suits could offer. The first people to walk on the moon needed to be protected from fine regolith, dust that’s as sharp as glass.
They also needed protection from wild temperature swings from the sun to shade. The suit also needed to be flexible so the astronauts could install gear, pick up moon rocks, and be able to last for hours away from the spacecraft. The Apollo Spacewalk was all of that.
It was heavily equipped and weighed as much as 180 pounds on Earth, but it was six times lighter on the moon. This spacesuit was all about functionality and ensuring the moon landing was successful.
Space Shuttle Flight Suit – 1988 – 2011
This spacesuit is also known as the pumpkin suit. It was worn by all the Space Shuttle crews. The ACES (Advanced Crew Escape Suit) Suit was an upgraded version that replaced the first version. It was manufactured by David Clark Company of Worcester, Massachusetts.
The suit was focused on keeping astronauts alive, so fashion awkwardness like the oversized shin pockets couldn’t have been avoided. This suit has built-in parachutes, life preservers, and even survival drinking packets.
NASA’s astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were the first humans to don SpaceX’s spacesuit in space. SpaceX went through a lot of trouble to bring us the most technologically advanced Spacesuit we have ever seen.
Instead of the old-school pumpkin suit that NASA uses for its space shuttle mission, SpaceX’s all-white design is an improvement for Behnken and Hurley. Elon Musk’s SpaceX utilized its new Spacesuit for the Crew Dragon Demo-2 test flight to the International Space Shuttle.
The space shuttle program had ended in 2011, but Behnken and Hurley were able to revisit earth’s orbit in a flawless launch from Florida on May 30, 2020. SpaceX’s Space Suit isn’t just fashionable and looks like something that will look great in a Sci-Fi movie; it is actually very functional.
The space suit is custom designed for the astronauts themselves. Hurley spoke about the space suit during a press conference on the space station. He said, “I bet you we’ve donned and offed those suits a couple hundred times. They were actually much easier to get in and out of in zero-G.”
Hurley thinks SpaceX’s space suit is better than NASA’s pumpkin suits. During the interview, Behnken complimented what Hurley had said about the space suit, he said: “We’d have to get the suits a five-star rating.”
Behnken also spoke about some of the suit’s primary functions, saying, “These suits didn’t have to do that job for us, which was nice. But it was clear that they were ready.” SpaceX’s space suit protects the astronauts from a sudden depressurization in the spacecraft.
It is made with fireproof material, so the astronauts are protected in the event of a fire. The gloves on the suit were designed to work with the touchscreens on the spacecraft used by Crew Dragons. The astronauts wouldn’t have to remove any part of the suit to carry out operations in the spacecraft.
The helmet protects the astronauts, but it also seals in oxygen and contains the communications units and the valves to keep the suit functional and comfortable. The space suit was developed and designed to be easy to use.
The suits can be plugged into seat umbilicals to receive cool air and oxygen from the spacecraft. Chris Tigg, SpaceX’s spacesuits and crew equipment manager, says this about the suit. “One of the things that was important in the development of the suit was to make it easy to use, something that the crew just literally has to plug in when they sit down, and the suit takes care of things from there.”
SpaceX’s suit was tested in space before NASA’s astronauts used it. A version of this space suit was used for the Tesla dummy that was launched with a Tesla Roadster into space towards Mars in 2018.
The same Spacesuit was used for the dummy Ripley that flew in the uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-1 test flight to the space station in 2019. NASA’s pumpkin suits are now obsolete as a new breed of spaceships breeds a new breed of spacesuits.
SpaceX’s suit has a sleek one-piece white design that’s much sleeker and less bulky than anything designed by NASA. The spacesuit’s design is so sleek and fashionable that Musk himself had to personally reassure people that it actually works. Musk said, “It definitely works. You can just jump in a vacuum chamber with it, and it’s fine.”
SpaceX’s space suit was designed by the legendary Hollywood Costume designer Jose Fernandez, who designed the costumes for blockbuster movies like Wolverine, Batman Vs. Superman, Captain America: Civil War, and Wonder Woman.
He’s the reason why the suit looks like it was built for a movie set. Rather than copying what NASA has done with its spacesuits, SpaceX has reached back and pulled forward, using retro styling to create something unique.
In terms of functionality, Bob Behnken thinks SpaceX’s space suit has the edge over NASA’s pumpkin suit. He said, “The SpaceX space suit has at least one big advantage: a high enough fidelity, from a training perspective, that we can — both Doug and I — can sit in a capsule, we can put on suits, and we can go through a situation or a scenario where the suits are going to inflate.”
SpaceX keeps most of the technological aspects of its suit private; this is necessary to keep the competition on its toes. But the private space exploration company headed by Elon Musk has emphasized that the suits are meant to be symbiotic with the computer panels that astronauts will use to monitor the dragon systems and navigate in orbit, space, or the international space station.
NASA itself sees no fault in the Spacesuit as it admits, “SpaceX’s spacesuit “is designed to be functional, lightweight, and to offer protection from potential depressurization.” Embarrassed by SpaceX’s fashionable high-tech Spacesuit, NASA is set on leaving the pumpkin suit in the dust and designing its own next-generation space suit.
However, it would be looking to the private sector to design these next-generation spacesuits. Elon Musk has offered SpaceX’s services to build NASA’s spacesuit. Musk pointed out that NASA’s current program is behind schedule and will cost more than $1 billion.
Probably still embarrassed by SpaceX’s astonishing suit, NASA has decided to contract out the design and development of its spacesuits to Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace instead of SpaceX.
Axiom Space has been credited with the achievement of flying the first private mission to the International Space Station, while Collin’s Aerospace has had a history with NASA, being responsible for the Spacesuit currently used by NASA’s astronauts when they are operating outside the international space station, and the first suit that allowed astronauts to walk on the moon, the Apollo Spacewalk Suit.
NASA hopes to use this next-generation suit designed by these private companies to explore the lunar surface on the Artemis Mission and prepare for human missions to the red planet Mars.
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