The spacesuit is a staple of space travel, equally imprinting itself onto culture. From music to art and onto fashion, the spacesuit has become a symbol synonymous with space travel, the great beyond, and humankind's conquests into space. So much so that you can even buy a space suit at your local costume store.
However, at its most functional level, the spacesuit serves the simple purpose of keeping astronauts alive and safe in space. Nevertheless, how much do you know about the spacesuit and its short but dense history? Let us start with the basics.
What is a Spacesuit?
The same way you wouldn't wear a shirt and jeans to a black-tie event is the same way you would not want to wear your everyday clothing in space. Sure, you can go ahead and try but a few things are sure to go wrong. Spacesuits serve many different purposes while astronauts are in space.
Costing upwards of 12 million dollars, space travel would not be possible, if it were not for the creation of the spacesuit. So, what else should you know about the spacesuit?
Why are spacesuits are important?
Technically you could survive in space without a spacesuit, however, you would not survive that long. We will get to that in a minute. Astronauts primarily wear spacesuits as a form of protection. Spacesuits keep astronauts safe from space's unforgiving environment, protecting them from getting too hot or cold, plus, it gives them oxygen to breathe. Let's focus on the spacewalk. Any time an astronaut gets out of a vehicle while in space, it is called a spacewalk.
While spacewalking astronauts encounter a wide range of temperatures that are far from pleasant. In the sunlight, it can be as hot as 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 deg. C), while on the opposite end of the spectrum conditions can be as cold as minus 250 degrees Fahrenheit (-156 deg. C). However, this is just the beginning. Spacesuits supply astronauts with oxygen to breathe while moving in the vacuum in the space. Even more so, the spacesuits protect from the impacts of space dust and bits of trash traveling at incredible speeds. And last but not least, spacesuits offer astronauts protections from high amounts of radiation in space.
You can survive in space without a spacesuit ...sort of
So yes, it is possible to survive in space without a spacesuit, albeit only for a short period of time. If you decided to take the bold leap into space without the proper protection, you would not die instantly. However, we can't say you would last longer than 15 seconds. Your blood won't boil or instantly freeze, rather you would just inflate and suffocate within that 15 seconds. So bring your spacesuit with you.
A spacesuit is comprised of many different parts
Parts of the spacesuit cover all aspects of the astronaut's body including the arms, head, chest, feet, legs, etc. Nevertheless, each part of the suit serves a specific purpose ranging from providing oxygen to protecting from space dust.
Spacesuits protect you from radiation
Solar radiation is a serious threat in space. On earth, humans are protected by this continuous solar radiation because of the Earth's magnetic field. So, although spacesuit doesn't do as good as our planetary magnetic field, it still does an excellent job of keeping humans safe for short periods of time.
Spacesuits work by providing a stable interior pressure
As mentioned before, your body will inflate while in space. the spacesuit primary function is to provide a pressurized environment for an astronaut's body so as to stop it from inflating. This is done in the spacesuit, by providing a layer of elastic rubber-like material and also by using pressurized oxygen. This also improves the mobility of the astronaut.
Spacesuits are puncture-proof
Even the smallest space debris can be traveling at speeds of up to 16,780 mph (27,000 km/h), threatening the lives of astronauts in space. Spacesuits protect astronauts from small debris, space junk, and meteorites zooming around in space.
Entering the earth's atmosphere with no suits
Astronauts wear orange spacesuits called, "launch and entry suits" when they leave earth and they arrive back on earth. However, these suits can only be worn inside the space shuttle.
Spacesuits are able to contain bodily waste
You probably have always wondered what exactly happens when an astronaut needs to pee, well, today you are getting your answer. If you are on a spacewalk while in a spacesuit and suddenly need to pee, it is possible to do so. Pouches installed in space suits are used to contain urine.
The Apollo spacesuits had boots and they looked cool
Since the crew involved in the lunar mission needed to walk on the rough lunar surface, space suits were created with specialized boots. Even more interesting, these iconic boots have been responsible for a host of trends in fashion and design, with some brands going as far as recreating the shoe for streetwear.
Astronauts wear spacesuits while inside their spacecraft
Spacesuits are not just worn in the void of space, they're also worn while astronauts are inside the spacecraft during launching, reentering, landing, and connecting to a space station. No one flies in their sweatsuit. The purpose of flying in a spacesuit is to protect the astronaut in case of a sudden loss of pressure.
Mercury suits were all the rage.
NASA's first spacesuits were made for the Mercury Program or the first human spaceflight program of the United States. The program put the first American astronauts in space for suborbital flights. The Mercury suits were only worn inside the spacecraft.
The first spacesuit was Soviet SK-1
However, the first spacesuit ever worn by a human was the Russian SK-1 spacesuit. It was worn by Yuri Gagarin in 1961 during the first-ever space flight conducted by a human.
Spacesuits evolved from flight suits
Before the official emergence of the spacesuit, fighter pilots and test pilots had been using flight suits for very high altitude flights. In fact, the flight suit pioneers of the 1930s led to the development of spacesuits that were used in the '60s.
The future of space travel will change the way spacesuits look
Spacesuits have evolved over the decade becoming more advanced and sleek. Private institutions alongside NASA are developing new spacesuits that will be part of the future of space travel. In one example, NASA is currently funding radical new ideas for spacesuits that could be worn on Mars and beyond. Led by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, and a team at Texas A&M Engineering, the SmartSuit is like nothing we have seen before. The SmartSuit will be able to increase human performance and will feature stretchable self-healing skin. This smart outer membrane can provide visual feedback to the wearer, identifying potential damage, threats, or issues with the suit. What’s more impressive, this EVA spacesuit is designed to be extremely comfortable. Amazing future space technology, right?
One of the most radical designs in the world of Spacesuits has come from Elon Musk's SpaceX. The sleek futuristic smart suits are a cool, one-piece white design that is able to connect directly to a computer of a spacecraft. Future missions to the moon, Mars, and beyond will continue to shape the technology on spacesuits.
One thing's for sure, future space stations are going to look crazy.