By Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation
Commander Hadfield, an avid Twitter-user who recently released a video of himself singing the David Bowie classic Space Oddity, joined Soyuz Commander Roman Romanenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency(Roscosmos) and NASA Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn on the long trip home from the station.
The astronauts prepare for their trip home.
“Russian recovery teams were on hand to help the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and adjust to gravity after 146 days in space,” NASA said in a statement on its website.
“The undocking marked the end of Expedition 35 and the start of Expedition 36 under the command of Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, who is scheduled to remain on the station with Flight Engineers Chris Cassidy and Alexander Misurkin until September.”
NASA said Hadfield, Marshburn and Romanenko spent their last morning on the station packing, including hardware from an experiment examining how gases and liquids come together and separate in space.
“Results from this experiment may lead to improvements in the shelf-life of household products, food and medicine,” NASA said.
Kevin Orrman-Rossiter, Senior Research Services Officer at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Science, said the International Space Station provides humans with a place to live in space.
“Until we get past a certain point that commercial interests take over and it becomes the ‘next’ exotic holiday, space exploration still requires substantial effort. In this case a multinational effort, demonstrating that people can work across political and national boundaries,” he said.
“For me, an interesting outcome from this last expedition was the difference one person made. Commander Chris Hadfield connected widely with people across the world using Twitter and fantastic pictures of our world from a view we can not normally see.”
Alice Gorman, Lecturer in Archaeology at Flinders University and an expert on space junk said the the International Space Station has many critics who see it as a white elephant.
“But I think it’s quite important for a couple of reasons – firstly because it’s an international cooperative venture, and this is an important antidote to the strong current of national security and military interests in space,” she said.
“As for the other reason, think about what it would be like if there were no humans in space at all. I think we’d feel a little closed in, like we had poked our head out of the atmosphere for a look and then scurried back into the atmosphere before anything scary happened.”
While robotic missions are far more efficient than crewed missions, the space station was about more than scientific efficiency, she said.
“It’s about making space a human place, and I think that’s important.”
Jonti Horner, Post Doctoral Research Fellow at University of New South Wales and an expert on exoplanets, said that the most important thing about the International Space Station is simply that it’s there.
“When we went to the Moon, in the late 60s and early 70s, it was viewed as being the first step towards a future where humanity was spreading out to the stars (manned bases on the moon, and Mars).
Since the last man walked on the moon, though, 40 years have passed – and since then, men and women have never left relatively low Earth orbit,“ he said, adding that many important experiments had been done on the station, taking advantage of its microgravity conditions.
“It’s kind of important to have some manned presence up there, I feel – if nothing else, just to show we haven’t totally abandoned the idea of getting off our planet.”
By Kevin Orrman-Rossiter, University of Melbourne
As the most visible man-made object in the night sky the International Space Station (ISS) is of significance to humankind. It takes humans from being explorers of space to being residents of space.
The Russians launched Zarya, the first module of the ISS, on November 20, 1998. It has grown considerably since then and has been continuously inhabited since November 2, 2000.
Understanding the response of the human body to low and microgravity is critical for space exploration. Astronauts undergoing long periods of weightlessness – such as in flights to and from Mars – will need to understand the impact of this on their ability to carry out tasks, both routine and emergency.
The space station provides an ideal environment to study many aspects of humans in space, including: balance, digestion, muscle and bone retention and heart behaviour.
It also provides a unique window on the earth and sun – one in which scientists can use their understanding to respond to opportunities as they arise as well as conduct scheduled experiments and observations.
As a solar observatory, the space station is clear of Earth’s atmosphere, giving a unique perspective on terrestrial weather and atmospheric science.
What happens if you wring out a wet cloth in microgravity?
The four laboratory sections house experiments selected on their scientific merit or educational and industrial interest. These include understanding how microgravity effects animal and plant growth, and understanding and developing novel industrial processes.
The AMS has been in operation and collecting data since June 27, 2011 and has an expected operational lifetime in excess of ten years.
Its most visible features are the eight solar arrays. They generate 84 kilowatts of power and have a wingspan of 73 metres, wider than a Boeing 777. They, along with the array of habitable modules, are supported by a central truss.
An hour-long tour of the ISS.
This is the space station control and services centre, containing the Russian guidance and navigation computers.
It’s also the sleeping and hygiene quarters for two of the cosmonauts. In an emergency it can support all six of the crew.
Back through Zarya you’ll come to the US-built Unity node, a galley where it is possible for all the crew to gather and eat together.
With its six side windows and a top window the Cupola gives observers a Millenium Falcon-type view of Earth below.
You wind your way back to Unity then through the truss structure (that supports the solar arrays and the Canadarm2) to the Destiny Laboratory – the primary US research facility. Continuing on from here, you reach Harmony.
You note the Destiny and Harmony nodes are square, rather than round like the older modules. This gives four usable working “walls” – there is no up or down, so no floor or ceiling.
Besides velcroing objects to every available “wall” space, the next noticeable thing is the total absence of chairs.
Harmony is home to four crew. The sleeping berths radiate into each “wall”. Each is about the size of a phone booth and have a sleeping bag-type arrangement as well as computer and space for personal effects.
Sleeping on the ISS is a novel experience. The station orbits Earth every 90 minutes, which means there is a sunrise and sunset every hour and a half.
The Harmony node also houses sanitary (yes, that is your toothbrush and toothpaste velcroed to the wall) and exercise facilities. A treadmill, gym and seatless exercise bike are part of the necessary exercise regime to ensure muscle does not waste away in the microgravity environment of the space station.
And … that’s it! This is your world for the next six months, all 388 cubic metres of it – about half the interior space of a Jumbo jet.
The first expedition of William Shepherd (US), Yuri Gidzenko (Russia) and Sergei Krikalev (Russia) was launched on a Russian Soyuz on October 31, 2000 and returned on the space shuttle Discovery on March 21, 2001.
At the moment, the ISS is hosting a six-person expedition, #35. Current commander Chris Hadfield (Canada) and flight engineers Tom Marshburn (US) and Roman Romanenko (Russia) docked on December 21, 2012.
Chris Cassidy (US), Alexander Misurkin (Russia), and Pavel Vinogradov (Russia), also flight engineers, docked on March 28, this year, replacing then-commander Kevin Ford (US) and flight engineers Oleg Novitskiy (Russia) and Evgeny Tarelkin (Russia).
You can watch the ISS crew live when they’re on duty.
Expedition #35 is an all-male crew, but 31 women have flown to the space station – including Expedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson, the station’s first female commander. In all, there have been nationals from 15 countries, including seven tourists.
a laboratory in space, for the conduct of science and applications and the development of new technologies
a permanent observatory in high-inclination orbit, from which to observe Earth, the Solar System and the rest of the Universe
a transportation node where payloads and vehicles are stationed, assembled, processed and deployed to their destination
a servicing capability from which payloads and vehicles are maintained, repaired, replenished and refurbished
an assembly capability from which large space structures and systems are assembled and verified
a research and technology capability in space, where the unique space environment enhances commercial opportunities and encourages commercial investment in space
a storage depot for consumables, payloads and spares
a staging base for possible future missions, such as a permanent lunar base, a human mission to Mars, robotic planetary probes, a human mission to survey the asteroids, and a scientific and communications facility in geosynchronous orbit
In the 2010 US National Space Policy, the ISS was given additional roles of serving commercial, diplomatic and educational purposes.
The ISS has acted as an example and vehicle for international co-operation, but the US has vetoed China’s participation. China, as a result, is now pursuing its own space laboratory program.
The US Administration will fund the ISS until 2020. With continued interest from the international community, the space station should continue as a vehicle for fruitful science and demonstration of international co-operation for at least this decade.
The development of commercial spacecraft also provides a second string to the station’s future. SpaceX has demonstrated its capability to deliver cargo and possibly crew to supplement the ageing Russian Soyuz capability.
Only time will tell whether the US allows the addition of China and India, Asia’s space-capable nations, to the ISS fraternity.
Kevin Orrman-Rossiter does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
By Kevin Orrman-Rossiter, University of Melbourne
Nobel prizewinner Samuel Ting, early this morning (AEDT), announced the first results from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrophotometer (AMS) search for dark matter. The findings, published in Physical Review Letters, provide the most compelling direct evidence to date for the existence of this mysterious matter.
In short, the AMS results have shown an excess of antimatter particles within a certain energy range. The measurements represent 18 months of data from the US$1.5 billion instrument.
The AMS experiment is a collaboration of 56 institutions, across 16 countries, run by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN). The AMS is a giant magnet and cosmic-ray detector complex fixed to the outside of the International Space Station (ISS).
The visible matter in the universe, such as you, me, the stars and planets, adds up to less than 5% of the universe. The other 95% is dark, either dark matter or dark energy. Dark matter can be observed indirectly through its interaction with visible matter but has yet to be directly detected.
Cosmic rays are charged high-energy particles that permeate space. The AMS is designed to study them before they have a chance to interact with Earth’s atmosphere.
The AMS explained.
An excess of antimatter within the cosmic rays has been observed in two recent experiments – and these were labelled as “tantalising hints” of dark-matter decay.
One possibility for the excess antimatter, predicted by a theory known as supersymmetry, is that positrons (antimatter electrons) could be produced when two particles of dark matter collide and annihilate.
Assuming that dark matter is evenly distributed, these theories predict the newly reported observations.
But the AMS measurement cannot yet entirely rule out the alternative explanation that the positrons originate from pulsars (rotating neutron stars) distributed around the galactic plane.
Supersymmetry theories also predict a cut-off at higher energies above the mass range of dark matter particles, and this has not yet been observed. Over the coming years, the AMS will further refine the measurement’s precision, and clarify the behaviour of the positron fraction at higher energies.
The AMS idea dates back to 1994. At that time NASA was desperate to develop a “sexy” science project that would endear the US scientific community to the ISS.
Enter Ting and his idea of a space-borne magnet that would sift matter and antimatter.
By 1995 Ting had NASA’s agreement. The US Department of Energy would fund the detector, and NASA would provide space on the ISS and a shuttle to fly it there. Ting would obtain the foreign involvement needed to build the instrument.
By 2008 the detector was complete but the shuttle flight schedule was a shambles. With delays after the 2003 Columbia disaster and the probable 2010 retirement of the shuttles, no flights were available to deliver the device to the space station.
Ting persisted and, through lobbying, got Congress to authorise one more shuttle flight, STS-134 – the second last ever.
On May 16, 2011 the final flight of NASA’s youngest shuttle, Endeavour, the spectrophotometer was launched. It has been in operation and collecting data since June 27, 2011 and has an expected operational lifetime in excess of 10 years.
There is a second scientific aim of the AMS. Experimental evidence indicates that our galaxy is made of matter. But the Big Bang theory assumes equal amounts of matter and antimatter were present at the origin of the universe.
So what happened to all the antimatter? The observation of just one antihelium nucleus would provide evidence for the existence of a large amount of antimatter somewhere in the universe.
With a sensitivity three orders of magnitude better than previous experiments, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrophotometer will be searching for the existence of this primordial antimatter.
Amazingly we have come to recognise that we know little about what makes up 95% of our universe.
Today’s AMS results mark a precision start to an audacious experiment to redress that ignorance.
Kevin Orrman-Rossiter does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
By Michael Smart, University of Queensland
American multi-millionaire and “space tourist” Dennis Tito plans to help fund a trip to Mars for two intrepid astronauts – as you may have read about on The Conversation. But they won’t be stopping – just passing by within 100km of the surface.
This trip is being led by Tito’s non-profit organisation – Inspiration Mars Foundation – and its stated aim is to:
inspire Americans to take advantage of this unique window of opportunity to push the envelope of human experience, while reaching out to our youth to expand their views of their own futures in space exploration.
What is most interesting, however, is the “do-it-yourself” way the whole space mission is being planned.
The proposed details of the mission are described in a technical paper now available online.
The plan is to go Mars on what is called a “free-return trajectory”, whereby the gravity of a secondary planet will cause the spacecraft to return to the primary body (Earth) without propulsion.
For that reason, the dates are already locked in: the mission must depart Earth on January 5, 2018, will pass-by Mars on August 20, 2018, and then return to Earth on May 21, 2019.
This is a very short trip which can only be done at a precise time in the celestial calendar, which recurs every five years or so.
The duration of around 501 days, or 16 months, is years shorter than any mission that would stop in orbit or land on Mars (once you slow down to orbit Mars you must wait for the next time Earth passes Mars in order to return). It is therefore a simple first step towards human exploration of Mars.
The plan is for mission costs – projected to be between US$1-2 billion – to be contained by using existing technology.
For those interested, a great infographic on the mission was published on Space.com recently, and can be seen here.
The company is expected to be involved in Tito’s Mars mission, with plans afoot for the use of three of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets, the most powerful in the world, to launch Tito’s Dragon spacecraft.
The capsule is to be an upgraded SpaceX Dragon capsule, which is really quite a cramped quarters for such a trip. Think floating around in a small camper-van.
Many of the usual things taken by astronauts on such a trip, such as spacesuits, will be left behind.
This will limit the ability of the two astronauts to perform in-flight repairs.
Many questions are being asked about why a private foundation is planning a human trip to Mars, but NASA cannot afford it. The answer lies in a difference of philosophies.
When NASA does space exploration, it is done the NASA way. In layman’s terms, think “gold-plated”.
On a NASA mission, all the equipment taken along goes through extensive and rigorous testing. The rockets are the best money can buy.
There are a multitude of checks and balances in place to try to make the mission as safe as humanly possible. NASA learned this method through the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs, and still has an extensive infrastructure in place to support it.
In some ways, people expect this of NASA. It may be, however, that space technology has matured to the point where this approach is not needed.
The successful SpaceX flights to re-supply the International Space Station have shown that a commercial company can safely fly to low earth orbit – and for a much lower price than NASA could.
Granted, SpaceX relies heavily on NASA for technical support during the flights. But SpaceX is responsible for the overall mission.
The Inspiration Mars Foundation mission can be viewed as an extension of this “non-government” spaceflight idea to human exploration of the solar system.
Whether the time is right for this will become clear in 2018.
Pensioners to go to Mars – why the old ones are the best
Michael Smart receives funding from the Australian Research Council.
Christmas – whether you’re religious or not – is a time when people gather their families together to reinforce the bonds that make us human.
In the era of modern telecommunications, distance no longer separates people the way it once did. Whether you’re on another continent, another planet, or floating out in space, satellites enable us to talk to and see each other, to feel connected.
And speaking of Christmas and space, it turns out the two have a bit of a history.
Space travel would explain how Santa can get around the world in one night. Kennedy Space Centre
Apollo 8 was a Christmas mission, the only one of all the Apollo missions. On December 21, 1968, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders blasted off from Cape Kennedy on a Saturn V rocket.
Their Christmas gift to the world was an extraordinary photograph that became one of the icons of the 20th century.
As they orbited the moon a few days after launch, an unscheduled change in orientation suddenly brought the earth into their view. The astronauts scrambled to get their cameras working, and Bill Anders took the famous shot of the Earth rising over the lunar horizon.
For the first time we saw our whole world from the outside. The fragility and beauty of the blue-and-white globe floating in the sea of darkness ignited an awareness of how interconnected the people of Earth are.
The nascent environmental movement drew inspiration from this vision and people really began to appreciate that we are only a small part of a rather large universe.
The Apollo program provided more concrete presents as well. The crew of Apollo 17, the last men on the moon, made a December 19 splashdown loaded with a 100kg-Santa’s-sack-worth of lunar rocks – our biggest collection so far. Many of these moon rocks were given as goodwill gestures to other nations.
They’re now the most valuable rocks in the world; each lump may be worth millions, as we have no idea when we’ll have the opportunity to get some more. Unbelievably, quite a few of these precious rocks have gone missing!
The Apollo missions demonstrated that humans could survive in space; what they couldn’t tell us was whether it was possible to actually live for an extended amount of time in space. This was the purpose of Skylab – the first US spacecraft to be designed as a living space, a home away from home.
Skylab was launched in 1973 and hosted three crews (Skylab 1 was unmanned) during its short working life. While in the space station, the astronauts enjoyed showers, a special dining area, and a sadly punishing toilet routine – everything that left their bodies had to be kept for future analysis.
The crew of the Skylab 4 mission celebrated Christmas in 1973 with a crafty piece of improvisation. Astronauts Gerald Carr, William Pogue and Edward Gibson made this charming Christmas tree out of empty food cans. Skylab 4 tin can Christmas tree. NASA
Wasting valuable mission time to make the tree may have been a passive act of resistance to having every minute of their waking days overplanned. Later in the three-month mission, the exhausted crew allegedly “mutinied” and chucked the first sickie in space.
On Earth and on the moon, space was quickly incorporated into Christmas traditions.
In 1947, Woomera in South Australia became the location of one of the earliest rocket launch sites in the world. The card shown below, with a Christmas greeting inside, depicts a V2-like rocket being launched over the desert.
Germany developed the V2 in WWII and it became the basis of Cold War space programs in the US, UK, France and Russia. Two ended up in Australia and are now at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The card seems to send a rather mixed message about war and peace …
Woomera Christmas card, likely from the late 1940s or early 1950s. Martin Wimmer
Soviet Russia also got into the Christmas card action though not officially – the celebration of Christmas was not encouraged during the Soviet era.
That said, the card below, which depicts St Nicholas and three USSR spacecraft, leaves no doubt that the spirit of Christmas nonetheless endured. (Bonus points if you can identify the spacecraft!)
Soviet rocket Christmas card. Mazaika
Not to be outdone on either the space or Christmas card race, NASA responded in style. In the shot below, the Apollo 14 crew of Alan Shepard, Ed Mitchell and Stuart Roosa, receive a Christmas card from James Loy, Chief, Protocol Branch for the KSC Public Affairs Office.
Note the crew peeping out from behind the Christmas tree on the card.
Every NASA mission generates merchandise and memorabilia – patches, t-shirts, mugs, etc. But did you know you could give your own Christmas tree a NASA makeover?
The image below, and the one above of Santa and an Apollo capsule, show souvenir Christmas tree ornaments from the Kennedy Space Centre.
This Christmas will be a quiet one in space. That said, on December 19 a crew of three flight engineers did launch from Kazakhstan to complete expedition 34 on the International Space Station.
Santa on the Moon. Kennedy Space Centre
NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield will get to celebrate Christmas twice – once on December 25, and again for the Russian Orthodox feast on January 7.
Like many modern families, the Mars Rover family – Curiosity, Opportunity and Spirit – will spend the Christmas period far from each other, albeit on the red planet. (For Santa to include them in his rounds, he may need to battle the Martians – or so they thought in this classic 1964 film).
Similarly, the twin Voyager spacecraft are moving ever further apart from each other on their missions to interstellar space.
But it’s not all bad. The same technologies which created the Mars Rover family and the Voyager twins led to our modern telecommunications network.
Human and robot alike are linked in a web of electromagnetic waves that keep us communicating and connected. In space, no-one need feel alone, particularly at Christmas.
The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.
The clothes we wear have both form and function. Real spacesuits are no different. Like a second skin they must provide a protective barrier for the astronaut. At the same time they are a product of the 20th century. A century replete in media opportunities and national symbolism.
What we imagine
The right stuff. Where the astronauts and public see that it all began. The experimental record breaking pilots and planes of the post Korean War US X-series. This 1960 image is of the most famous of all astronauts, Neil Armstrong first human on the Moon. Here, as an X-15 pilot, Neil is wearing a Navy Mark IV high altitude/vacuum suit.
Public and pilots are one thing. Scientists, well they may see the race with a different beginning. The first ‘nauts’ were frankly a bunch of animals.
As such they did not go in for suits. Not much in the way of protection at all. Laika, the first cosmodog (or dogonaut?), the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 that was launched into outer space on November 3, 1957. The first Earth animal to reach space. She had a flight harness, oxygen and water supply for her scheduled six day flight. Laika did not survive her journey, dying hours after launch from overheating.
Ham, the astro-chimp, fared somewhat better, making a live return to Earth. Ham’s capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean and was recovered by a rescue ship later that day. He only suffered a bruised nose. Perhaps it was the NASA helmet? A prudent use of tax-payer money. Congress of today may have approved.
Ham had his vital signs and tasks monitored using computers on. The capsule suffered a partial loss of pressure during the flight, but Ham’s biopack couch space suit prevented him from suffering any harm. Ham’s lever-pushing performance in space was only a fraction of a second slower than on Earth, demonstrating that tasks could be performed in space.
The for space ‘firsts’
The pressurised rather baggy, looking suit weighs 20kg and is modeled on the Russian flight suits of the time. The primary life support is provided by the capsule. The suit is designed for low pressure/vacuum intra-vehicular activity and ejection. Not surprising given that Gagarin parachutes from 7000m on re-entry. The sphere shaped command capsule separately parachutes, empty, to Earth.
Similarly the US suits of the NASA Mercury program were modified Navy Mark IV flight suit. They provided pressure support to ensure adequate blood circulation whilst in flight. Oxygen and radio contact were the other necessities for these very sedentary flights.
When NASA began the Mercury Project in 1958, one of the first needs was a pressure suit to protect the astronaut in the event of a sudden depressurization of the cabin in the vacuum of space.
The Mark IV suit had solved the mobility problems with the use of elastic cord which arrested the “ballooning” of the suit, and at 10kg, was the lightest pressure suit developed for military use.
The Mercury suit incorporated several changes from the Navy Mark IV:
Each astronaut had three pressure suits: one for training, one for flight, and one for a backup. All three suits cost $20,000 USD total and unlike the military Mark IV suits, had to be individually tailored to each astronaut.
On May 5, 1961, Shepard piloted the Freedom 7 mission and became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space. He was launched by a Redstone rocket, and unlike Gagarin’s 108-minute orbital flight, Shepard stayed on a ballistic trajectory—a 15-minute suborbital flight which carried him to an altitude of 187 km. Unlike Gagarin, whose flight was strictly automatic, Shepard had some control of Freedom 7, spacecraft attitude in particular. The launch was seen live on television by millions.
It might be supposed that the inclusion of women in the USSR cosmonaut program may have bought in changes.
Although Tereshkova experienced nausea and physical discomfort for much of the flight she orbited the earth 48 times and spent almost three days in space. With a single flight, she logged more flight time than the combined times of all American astronauts who had flown before that date.
Vostok 6 was the final Vostok flight and was launched two days after Vostok 5 which carried Valery Bykovsky into a similar orbit for five days, landing three hours after Tereshkova. The two vessels approached each other within 5 kilometres at one point, and Tereshkova communicated with Bykovsky and with Khrushchev by radio.
The Gemini program was created for the purpose of teaching astronauts the techniques involved in docking, rendezvous, long-term flight and space-walks.
The first space-walk was nearly fatal. On March 18 1965 Alexei Leonov emerged from his Voshkod spacecraft. His Berkut suit ballooned such that he had extreme difficulty re-entering hatch of his spacecraft.
The suit is a modified SK-1. Life support was contained in back pack, had a large enough oxygen supply to last 45 minutes of activity. Movement within the suit was seriously restricted. It was only used by the crew of the Voskhod 2.
Three months later on June 3 1965, Edward H White II had no such problems for his spacewalk in his G4C suit. His space walk from Gemini 4 was played out in the full glare of world-wide audience and captured in glorious colour.
There were three main suit variants developed for the Gemini program. : G3C designed for intra-vehicle use; G4C specially designed for extra-vehicular activity and intra-vehicle use; and a special G5C suit worn by the Gemini 7 crew for 14 days inside the spacecraft
Walking on the Moon
The Apollo program to the Moon bought to the fore the extra functionality required for walking on the surface of another world. The suits needed to be self supporting, more robust in case of falls, flexible so that activities could be carried out and shield the astronauts from the radiation expected on the airless surface of the Moon.
Additional requirements for extra-vehicular activity include:
Apollo (Block I A1C suit (1966-1967) was a derivative of the Gemini suit, worn by primary and backup crews in training for two early Apollo missions. The nylon pressure garment melted and burned through in the Apollo 1 cabin fire. This suit became obsolete when manned Block I Apollo flights were discontinued after the fire.
The Block II Apollo suit (Apollo/Skylab A7L) was the primary pressure suit worn for 11 Project Apollo flights, 3 Skylab flights, and the US astronauts on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project between 1968 and 1975. The pressure garment’s nylon outer layer was replaced with fireproof Beta cloth after the Apollo 1 fire. This suit was the first to employ a liquid-cooled inner garment and outer micrometeroid garment.
The Soyuz program was first designed to match the US Apollo effort and place men on the Moon. These saw a continual design to meet extra vehicular activities.
From Soyuz 1 to Soyuz 11 no pressure suits were worn between launch and re-entry.
The Yastreb suit was designed to overcome the difficulties experienced by the berkut suit of Leonov. The Yastreb design was much more rigid using a system of pulleys and lines to regulate movement. The backpack containing life support was mounted in a metal box that could be attached to the chest or to the leg to ease access through the small Soyuz hatch.
The suit was to be worn only in the Orbital module of the Soyuz spacecraft and needed two people to put it on.
The Yastreb suit was only used once, this was during the Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 docking and crew exchange. The suit was not worn during launch or reentry. During the mission both cosmonauts experienced problems with the suit.
The Sokol, shown above, was introduced in 1973 and is still in use in 2012. It is designed as a rescue suit, in case of spaceship depressurisation.
Orlan suits are used for extra-vehicular activity. Originally developed for the Soviet lunar program as a lunar orbit extra-vehicular activity suit. It is Russia’s current extra-vehicular activity suit. Used from 1977 to present.
Space suit design has since gone ahead in a series of improvements as the suits have been used for use inside the MIR, Soylut, Skylab and International Space Station. This now included the inclusion of women in the Shuttle program. Including the first American woman to walk in space, Kathryn Sullivan.
She is pictured wearing anExtravehicular Mobility Unit used on both the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. The extra-vehicular mobility unit is an independent anthropomorphic system that provides environmental protection, mobility, life support, and communications for a Shuttle or ISS crew member to perform extra-vehicular activity in earth orbit. Used from 1982 to present.
The shuttle program saw a big shift initially. From STS-5 (1982) to STS-25 (1986) no pressure suits were worn during launch and re-entry. The crew would wear only a blue-flight suit with an oxygen helmet.
After the Challenger disaster a Launch Entry Suit was used on STS-26. This partial pressure suit was used from 1988 to 1998. It is modeled below, by the first Indian woman in space Kalpana Chawla. She sadly was one of seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
Advanced Crew Escape Suit were used on the Space Shuttle starting in 1994. The Advanced Crew Escape Suit or ACES suit, is a full pressure suit currently worn by all Space Shuttle crews for the ascent and entry portions of flight. The suit is a direct descendant of the U.S. Air Force high-altitude pressure suits worn by SR-71 Blackbird and U-2 spy plane pilots, X-15 and Gemini pilot-astronauts and the Launch-Entry Suits worn by NASA previously worn by astronauts.
Included in design is the need for mobility inside the space stations for a much larger variety of activities. Such as this 1996 image of Shannon Lucid exercising on the ISS on a treadmill.
An Orlan space suit is a series of semi-rigid one-piece space suit models. They have been used for spacewalks in the Russian space program, the successor to the Soviet space program, and by space programs of other countries, including NASA.
A variant of the Orlan Spacesuit, with improvements, is used by the Chinese Space Program.
Fiction, the future and experimental suits
As you can see I have come a long way. From the early suits to the sophisticated suite of suits in the current programs. I can hardly wait for hard shell suits, voyages to Mars, the Constellation program and space suits in fiction - an exciting story continues………