Intelligent Machines

A Look Back at U.S. Space Suits

NASA is developing its next generation space suit, here’s what came before it.

Jan 25, 2010
Gordon Cooper, one of NASA’s seven original astronauts, poses in his Mercury flight suit. The suit, developed in 1959 by B.F. Goodrich, was a modified version of a U.S. Navy high-altitude jet aircraft outfit.
The Mercury suit is worn here by astronaut John Glenn, who, in 1962, became the first American to orbit the Earth. Glenn is the only astronaut to fly in space wearing both a Mercury suit and a shuttle suit.
Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, is shown here wearing the training version of the Gemini space suit. The suit was developed by David Clark Company, and was made to be flexible when pressurized.
Astronauts Gus Grissom, left, and John Young flew the first Gemini mission in March 1965. Their flight suit, the Gemini G3C, included layers of Mylar insulation for temperature control, and a portable air conditioner, which is connected to the suits in the image.
The Gemini space suit is worn here by Ed White during the first American spacewalk, on June 3, 1965.
During a suit test in 1968, engineer Bill Peterson fits test pilot Bob Smyth with a Lunar Excursion Module restraint harness. With the development of the Apollo suits, engineers faced brand-new challenges. Astronauts needed protection against the lunar environment but also needed the mobility to explore.
Another Apollo space suit is worn here by Apollo 14 commander Alan Shepard before his trip to the lunar surface in 1971. The suit had 11 layers of material to protect astronauts from temperatures ranging from -156 degrees Celsius to 121 degrees Celsius.
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin wears the Apollo space suit on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969. In addition to providing protection from solar radiation, the suit included a life-support system (the large backpack) to provide oxygen and a stable internal pressure.
This is the first version of the crew escape suit, worn during flight ascent and descent. It could protect astronauts in the event of atmospheric pressure loss. The suit was worn by John Young and Robert Crippen during the first space shuttle flight on April 12, 1981.
The Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES) is worn by space shuttle crews during the launch and ascent phases of flight. It affords protection against loss of pressure and cold water exposure, and provides water cooling. The full assembly includes a survival pack, emergency oxygen system, and personal parachute.
The Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) is worn when astronauts perform tasks in Earth orbit outside the confines of the spacecraft. Astronaut Mike Fossum is shown here installing a video camera on the outside of the International Space Station. The space suit weighs over 300 pounds.
David Clark Company is designing a new U.S. space suit for missions to the space station, moon, and Mars. It has interchangeable parts, so the same arms, legs, boots, and helmet can be switched to a different torso. The first configuration, shown here, is designed for launch, descent, and emergency activities, while the second design is meant for lunar exploration.
The space suit is being tested here by Donald Tufts, program manager of the Constellation space suits project at David Clark Company. It uses advanced materials to increase the astronauts’ mobility and flexibility, and lightweight composite structures to reduce its weight. The final completed suit is expected to be ready by 2013.
NASA has developed another lunar suit, called MK III, for simulating life on the lunar surface. It is shown here in the Arizona desert.
This prototype space suit is used to perform mock scientific work at Moses Lake, in Washington.