The evolution of Spacesuits from past to present

Here you'll find all the important spacesuits worn by NASA astronauts since the 1960s - and the new lunar suit that has just been unveiled.
Interesting Engineering

Space exploration has always been an exciting and challenging endeavor. However, it's not without its dangers, especially for the astronauts who venture into the great unknown. That's why spacesuits are such an essential part of space exploration, as they provide the necessary protection and life support systems for astronauts in the harsh environment of space. In this article, we'll take a look at the evolution of spacesuits from past to present and how they have adapted to meet the changing needs of space exploration.

The first spacesuits were developed in the early 1960s as part of the Mercury program, which aimed to put the first American in space. These suits were bulky and made of multiple layers of nylon and rubber, with a helmet made of clear polycarbonate plastic. They provided only limited mobility, and the astronauts had to rely on cooling systems to prevent overheating in the hot, cramped capsule.

The Gemini program, which followed the Mercury program, saw the introduction of a new type of spacesuit. These suits were more flexible and comfortable, and included a portable life support system that allowed the astronauts to spend longer periods of time outside the spacecraft.

The Apollo program saw the most significant developments in spacesuit technology, as it required astronauts to spend extended periods of time on the moon's surface. The suits used on the Apollo missions were the first to feature a full-body suit with an integrated backpack containing a portable life support system, allowing the astronauts to breathe and stay cool in the harsh lunar environment. These suits also included a visor that protected the astronauts' eyes from the sun's intense rays.

With the introduction of the Space Shuttle program in the 1980s, spacesuit design shifted towards lighter and more flexible materials. The Shuttle-era suits were made of a combination of nylon, spandex, and urethane-coated nylon, which allowed for greater mobility and comfort. These suits also included a new type of helmet that provided better visibility and communication with the spacecraft.

The International Space Station (ISS) saw the development of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), which is still in use today. These suits are designed to protect astronauts from the extreme temperatures and radiation of space, as well as provide them with the necessary life support systems for spacewalks. The EMU includes a helmet with built-in lights and cameras, allowing the astronauts to see and communicate more effectively during spacewalks.

The future of spacesuits is being shaped by private space companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin. SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacesuits, for example, are sleek and futuristic-looking, with touchscreens built into the gloves for improved communication and control. These suits are also designed to be more lightweight and comfortable than previous spacesuits, allowing astronauts to wear them for longer periods of time.

Spacesuits have come a long way since the early days of space exploration. They have evolved to meet the changing needs of space exploration, from the bulky and limited suits of the Mercury program to the sleek and advanced designs of today. As space exploration continues to advance, we can expect to see further developments in spacesuit technology, allowing astronauts to explore new frontiers and push the boundaries of what is possible.