– OUT OF THIS WORLD –
Nice outfit! How about these Tidbits facts about the suit worn by astronauts in space?
• The primary purpose of a spacesuit is to provide a stable pressurized environment for the normal function of an astronaut’s body. It gives them oxygen to breathe, and protection from radiation, along with space dust that flies at incredible speed. Specialized gold-lined visors shield the eyes from bright sunlight. The suit protects the astronauts from the wide variety of temperatures in space which can vary from -250 degrees F (-156 C) to as hot as 275 degrees F (135 C).
• Materials used in the construction of a spacesuit include Ortho-fabric, which is a combination of a flame-resistant material found in firefighter suits, Gore-Tex, a waterproof, breathable fabric, and Kevlar, the material used in bulletproof vests. Aluminized mylar, urethane-coated nylon, stainless steel, and nylon spandex also contribute to the composition.
• The spacesuit weighs about 280 lbs. (127 kg), which would be a huge burden for an astronaut to pack around on Earth, but the lack of gravity in space makes the task a little easier. Several helpers assist in getting an astronaut dressed, a process that takes 45 minutes.
• During a spacecraft’s launch and landing, astronauts wear orange spacesuits. These suits can be worn only inside the craft. In the case of an emergency landing at sea, the bright “International Orange” suits are easy for rescuers to spot. Outside of the pressurized module, astronauts wear white spacesuits, which reflect the heat in space and allow the suit’s cooling and heating system to operate more effectively.
• A backpack on the back of the suit holds oxygen along with a fan that moves the oxygen through the spacesuit. It also removes the carbon dioxide the astronauts have breathed out. A tool connected to the back of the suit contains several small thruster jets. Known as a SAFER, it provides the means for an astronaut to fly back to the station in the event he/she were to drift away.
• Astronauts wear another garment under their spacesuit, which covers everything except the head, hands, and feet. Tubes are woven into this article of clothing, through which water flows to keep the space traveler cool.
• The first person to wear a spacesuit was soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who, as the first human to travel to outer space, wore the SK-1 suit aboard the Vostok 1 in April, 1961. The following month, American astronaut Alan Shepard wore the Mercury suit, manufactured by the B.F. Goodrich Company.
• In 1984, Bruce McCandless’ spacesuit was equipped with a jetpack device called the Manned Maneuvering Unit. While previous spacewalks required a tether to keep the astronaut attached to the spacecraft, during a Challenger mission, McCandless became the first person to perform an untethered spacewalk.
• In 1974, the price of one spacesuit ranged between $15 million and $22 million, about $83 million to $122 million in today’s money. The majority of the cost was for the backpack, life support system, and control panel. NASA still reuses the spacesuits that were made in 1974. After shuttle flights and space station missions, the suits are returned to Johnson Space Center for post-flight processing and preparation for re-use.
• NASA’s plans are for another moon mission in 2024, and new spacesuits must be manufactured for the lunar landing and other missions to follow. The cost of one of the new spacesuits is estimated at $1 billion.