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Suited for Space
September 4, 2013 8:44 AM   Subscribe

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space museum is running an exhibit showing the ingenuity of design inherent in the spacesuits used by NASA astronauts. It includes some very cool x-ray photographs of the equipment by Mark Avino. [via]
posted by quin (16 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Weirdly looks like those helmets had a USB cable for streaming tunes while moon-walking or something!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:07 AM on September 4, 2013


Pretty sure I had an outfit that looked exactly like this.
posted by griphus at 9:16 AM on September 4, 2013


This 1964 A4-H “Universal” helmet, designed for more than one suite, could fit on more than one suit.

Someone at the Smithsonian wrote that.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:16 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I remember visiting Kennedy Space Center as a kid. They had a moon landing scene set up, with a space suit you could stick your head through and have your picture taken. Mine came out so red-eyed I looked like I was there to take over your puny Earth by stealing the space travel garments of one of your feeble human Astro-naughts. I wonder if Mom still has any of those pictures.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:18 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, and recently we almost had a drowning a few miles up there.

Space suites need to be designed and built, take a beat, in space. Would you wear a scuba outfit designed in the middle of the Sahara?

Hopefully between the Space X's and the rich guys trying to harvest the asteroid belt we'll get beyond the big science (congressional back scratching) approach and get a long term presence of engineers and workers to build what's really needed to live and work (and hang out and have games and dances and cool stuff).
posted by sammyo at 9:20 AM on September 4, 2013


The museum will also be showing Leonardi da Vinci's “Codex on the Flight of Birds” later this month, which I look forward to seeing in person.
posted by exogenous at 9:23 AM on September 4, 2013


We (er.. they) really need to figure out really efficient airlocks that don't take many minutes to cycle.
posted by sammyo at 9:26 AM on September 4, 2013


And on a re-read of the link I posted above, why isn't there redundancy in communication? A keypad? Planned hand signals? Seems like if there had been a worse emergency that cut off his voice he'd have had no way to let his crew mates know.
posted by sammyo at 9:36 AM on September 4, 2013


Why are there seven hour space walks? Is it that hard to come inside for lunch?
posted by sammyo at 9:37 AM on September 4, 2013


sammyo: "Why are there seven hour space walks? Is it that hard to come inside for lunch?"

It takes a little under an hour to get into the suit and checked, and once you're in you need to get used to the pure oxygen and low pressure before being allowed outside, which takes another hour.

From what I've read, working outside in the suit is extremely hard and frustrating work, a job which might take you ten minutes on Earth can take hours, because of your lack of feel, limited motion and of course the joys of zero gravity.
posted by Static Vagabond at 10:44 AM on September 4, 2013


At least some of those images were taken by a colleague of mine, who is credited on only one image and whose initals are still in one of the others (which is credited only to Mark Avino), and of whom I'm feeling a bit fiercely defensive just now - Ron (Roland H.) Cunningham.

Probably I'm overreacting. But Ron's good and that's his work.

(The x-ray room is wicked cool and lead is like, super awesome to play with.)
posted by you must supply a verb at 10:55 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


We (er.. they) really need to figure out really efficient airlocks that don't take many minutes to cycle.

I'm sure everyone, especially the astronauts, would love for the airlock cycling to take only seconds. But it's probably just not feasible from an engineering and cost standpoint.

why isn't there redundancy in communication? A keypad? Planned hand signals? Seems like if there had been a worse emergency that cut off his voice he'd have had no way to let his crew mates know.

The astronauts are in constant communication with Mission Control while outside, so if voice communications dropped, it would quickly be noticeable. As to hand signals, there probably are simple ones. Luca was able to communicate that he was ok by using the universal A-ok or thumbs up sign, I forget which he specifically used. Not sure a keypad would have helped him, as he would have had to move his head to see the keys.

Why are there seven hour space walks? Is it that hard to come inside for lunch?

Because it can take that long to get the task done. Seriously, EVAs are tough and astronauts or cosmonauts have to move slowly and carefully, in order to make sure things get safely done.

Also, for the NASA suits (called EMU), the astronauts need to prebreathe pure nitrogren for 12 hours before fully putting on the suit. They usually wind up sleeping in the airlock. Factoring in that, plus the long time to get in and out of an EMU, then yeah, the astronauts can definitely be out there for a while.

For comparison sakes, take a look at the Russian Orlan suits, which only require a half hour of prebreathing and a person can get in and out of it in 5 minutes or so. Yet they can also be outside for 7 hours. Hell, they just broke the record for the longest Russian EVA, spending 7 hours and 29 minutes outside.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:23 PM on September 4, 2013


Why does't NASA design a suit more like the functionality of the Orlan, which has a lower prebreathe time? Because the difference in the internal suit pressures puts different functionality on the suits. For the EMU, it's 4.3 pounds per inch (psi(, while the Orlan is 5.8 psi. The higher pressure of the Orlan makes it harder to move in. So the EMU takes longer to get into (they can cut the time from 12 to 4 hours if they pre breathe in the suit), but is ultimately more flexible, which is definitely useful for work outside. Like everything, there are tradeoffs.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:36 PM on September 4, 2013


I couldn't help but think the title was a reference to this.
posted by emptythought at 4:09 PM on September 4, 2013


Prebreathe pure nitrogen? I'll take a side order of O2 with my pure nitrogen, please.

From the link it looks like they prebreathe pure O2.
posted by caphector at 4:11 PM on September 4, 2013


Yep, you're right, just had nitrogen on the brain.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:24 PM on September 4, 2013


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