Tag Archives: spacesuits

The man who suited up astronauts during the 1960s passes away at 101

R.I.P. Joseph Schmitt, the man who suited up all the astronauts during the 1960s, has passed away at 101.

Schmitt put Alan Shepard into his Freedom 7 capsule for the United States’ first spaceflight in May 1961, and he was still suiting up astronauts more than 20 years later, making sure everything was sealed and connected properly. Before any flight, he would spend long hours in the testing laboratory with the astronauts, getting them accustomed to their suits and troubleshooting problems.

He wrangled suits through the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs and into the space shuttle era, a span during which spacesuits went from being, essentially, modified military gear to high-tech creations that could protect an astronaut on a spacewalk or on a stroll on the moon.

An important man, but invisible at the time. In Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8 I included pictures of the three Apollo 8 astronauts getting suited up, with one picture including an unnamed technician in the background whom I now suspect was Schmtt. Until now, I had never even noticed the technician at all. The focus was the astronauts, which though reasonable is also not really thorough. Everyone should always be credited for what they do, especially when what they do is hard, historically significant, and has to be done right. What Schmitt did was all those things.

Report finds NASA spacesuit development over budget, behind schedule, and inadequate

Government in action! A NASA inspector general report has found that NASA’s program for developing new spacesuit is behind schedule, over budget, and unable to provide the necessary spacesuits needed for the agency’s future projects.

NASA’s spacewalking suits are in short supply, and a replacement is still years away despite the nearly $200 million spent on new technology, the space agency’s inspector general reported Wednesday. A next-generation suit for spacewalking astronauts is needed for future space travel, including trips to Mars. But a lack of a formal plan and destinations has complicated suit development, according to the report . At the same time, NASA has reduced funding for suit development, putting more priority instead on space habitats.

According to the report, NASA is dealing with a variety of design and health risks associated with the spacewalking suits used by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The suits were developed more than 40 years ago and intended for 15 years.

More here. Essentially, the suits NASA presently uses on ISS don’t work well, there aren’t enough of them left, and they are difficult to maintain because they were designed for transport up and down on the space shuttle. At the same time NASA’s entire program to replace these suits has been mismanaged so badly that no replacement suits are anywhere on the horizon,even after spending hundreds of millions of dollars.

I predict that the next new spacesuit Americans use will be built in less than five years for a tenth the cost, by private companies.

Spacesuit problem from January declared solved

NASA has completed its investigation into the spacesuit water leak that forced a January spacewalk to end two hours early by declaring the problem is not serious and needs no significant re-engineering.

However, thanks to the suit being returned to Earth on the Dragon, the problem with [astronaut Tim] Kopra’s suit was deemed to be more an unfortunate coincidence, as opposed to a wider issue with the EMUs [spacesuits] on Station. Mr. Shireman told the ASAP [Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel] that the conclusion reached was that the incident was not an example of the same failure as in the previous water-in-the-helmet instance. “In this case, the likely cause was a combination of both environmental and operational factors that blocked outlet port slurper holes. The finding was that the amount of water was considerably smaller than before, and the conclusion reached was that this was a non-hazardous occurrence, even if it occurs in the future.”

As a result, the NASA team recommended a “go” for nominal and planned EVAs. Two EVAs, with special contingency allowances, were conducted since EVA-35, both without issue.

The whole article reads like a government press release trying to paper over a problem. “Move along, nothing to see here!” While they might have located and solved the problem, this tone makes me very suspicious. They would be smarter to just tell us the story straight, rather acting like NASA cheerleaders

Spacewalk cut short due to spacesuit water leak

Today’s spacewalk at ISS to repair a failed voltage regulator of the station’s power system has been cut short because a water bubble had appeared inside one of the astronaut’s spacesuit.

The astronauts are presently in the airlock about to remove their spacesuits, so it appears they are not in danger. However, this problem is the return of the earlier water leaks inside NASA’s spacesuits, something that the agency had thought it had solved last year. If it has returned, this is of serious concern, since it suggests that they have not yet pinpointed the chronic cause of the problem.

It should be noted that the astronauts had successfully replaced the voltage regulator prior to the premature conclusion of their spacewalk. They had had other less critical tasks on their schedule which they had to forego because of the leak.

It appears that NASA is planning to go ahead with at least one spacewalk to replace ISS’s faulty coolant system pump.

It appears that NASA is planning to go ahead with at least one spacewalk to replace ISS’s faulty coolant system pump.

After attempts from the inside to restart the malfunctioning cooling loop on the International Space Station failed last night, NASA mission managers have decided a spacewalk will be required to fix the problem, a source privy to NASA operations told TV20 News. NASA mission managers have scheduled the first spacewalk for Dec. 19th, according to the source, with two other spacewalks, also known as EVAs, likely to follow a few days after.

This story is not yet confirmed, but this AP article suggests it might be true.

Bras in space: How a bra company made the spacesuits the astronauts wore on the Moon.

Bras in space: How a bra company made the spacesuits the astronauts wore on the Moon.

Fascinating interview, though I find it humorous how it is considered absurd and unlikely for a private company that makes bras to make these spacesuits. In truth, when the Apollo missions happened, Americans had no doubt that ordinary private businesses were the best places to go to get something novel and creative done.