Editorial Feature

NASA Spacesuits: What are they made of?

An astronaut can spacewalk for up to eight hours! Image Credit - www.nasa.gov

Recent news regarding an 'abandoned' space walk due to a ‘leak’ in an astronaut's spacesuit really does pose the question;

'What is an astronaut's spacesuit made up of?'

Spacewalks are an important part of an astronaut’s mission and the spacesuit provides protection and survival for up to eight hours.

Luca Parmitano, the Italian Astronaut, who had to abandon his spacewalk, was only fifteen minutes into a six-hour spacewalk so the importance of the suit being 100% secure is paramount.

Maximum Protection - an astronaut's helmet connects to the PLSS and In-suit drink bag. Image Credit - www.nasa.gov

With a visor that is coated with a thin layer of gold to give protection from the sun’s harmful ultra violet rays, and extreme temperatures, the helmet is one of most important parts of the space suit.

A vent pad directs oxygen from the hard upper torso and primary life support subsystem to the front of the helmet.

Covered with protective cloth layers the primary life support system is located on the back of the suit and is very much like a back pack. This supplies oxygen, removes exhaled carbon dioxide and holds water-cooling equipment. If anything goes wrong with PLSS, the space walker is quickly notified due to its sophisticated warning system.

All astronauts have to go through thorough suit checks before going out into space. Image Credit - www.nasa.gov

The hard upper torso is made out of fiberglass and is almost like wearing the body of a ‘car’. The display and controls monitor is attached as well as the in-suit drink bag, which is attached inside the HUT. A tube that goes into the helmet that the astronaut squeezes allows them to drink.

This isn’t the only means for an astronaut to receive water as they always wear a liquid cooling and ventilation garment underneath the suit, which is connected with tubes around the body.

The PLSS is worn like a backpack and is connected to the helmet via a vent pad. Image Credit - www.nasa.gov

Fourteen layers make up the arms of the spacesuit, combining flexibility, protection from objects and insulation.

The outer layer is made up of three fabrics all having different qualities; being waterproof, fireproof and bulletproof.

The lower torso is similar in having to ensure maximum protection and flexibility.

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Kris Walker

Written by

Kris Walker

Kris has a BA(hons) in Media & Performance from the University of Salford. Aside from overseeing the editorial and video teams, Kris can be found in far flung corners of the world capturing the story behind the science on behalf of our clients. Outside of work, Kris is finally seeing a return on 25 years of hurt supporting Manchester City.


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