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NASA - The History of Spacesuits
September 16, 2008

The Mercury Seven astronauts wearing silver-colored spacesuits

NASA's first spacesuits were very different from the ones used today. Image Credit: NASA

Astronauts wear spacesuits to stay safe in space. Today's spacesuits are used on the space shuttle and the International Space Station. But NASA has used other spacesuits in the past.

What Were Early Spacesuits Like?

NASA's first spacesuits were made for the Mercury program. Mercury was the first time NASA astronauts flew into space. The Mercury suits were only worn inside the spacecraft.

NASA's first spacewalks took place during the Gemini program. The suits used for Gemini were better than the Mercury suits. But the Gemini suits were simpler than today's suits. These suits did not contain their own life support. A hose connected the astronaut to the spacecraft. The astronaut breathed oxygen from the spacecraft through the hose.

How Were Moon Spacesuits Different?

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin wears a spacesuit on the lunar surface

Spacesuits worn on the moon allowed astronauts to walk around the lunar surface far from their lander. Image Credit: NASA

Spacesuits for the Apollo program had to do things the Mercury and Gemini suits could not. They had to protect astronauts while they were walking on the moon. The Apollo suits had boots made to walk on rocky ground. The Apollo suits also had a life support system. The astronauts could go far away from the lunar lander because they weren't connected by a hose. Spacesuits like the Apollo suits were used on the Skylab space station missions. Like the Gemini suits, these suits connected to Skylab with a hose.

What Other Suits Do Astronauts Wear?

NASA astronauts wear other kinds of spacesuits. Astronauts wear orange suits during launch and landing of the space shuttle. These suits can only be worn inside the shuttle. Astronauts wear heavy white spacesuits when going on spacewalks outside the space shuttle or the space station. Sometimes, NASA astronauts wear a Russian Orlan spacesuit on spacewalks. Another Russian suit is the Sokol. Like NASA's orange suit, the Sokol can only be worn inside a spacecraft. The Sokol is worn on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

What Will Future Spacesuits Be Like?

Today, NASA is working on new spacesuits.

Two people in spacesuits stand on sandy ground

NASA is testing ideas for spacesuits that could be worn on the moon. Image Credit: NASA

NASA is planning to go back to the moon, so astronauts will need new spacesuits. Like the Apollo suits, the new suits will let astronauts work safely on the moon. The new suits will help astronauts do things that the Apollo suits could not. They will let astronauts move more easily. The suits will make it easier to work on the surface of the moon. They will protect astronauts from moon dust. Moon dust is sticky, and can be rough like sandpaper.

NASA is also planning spacesuits for Mars. Unlike Earth orbit or the moon, Mars has its own atmosphere. Mars has more gravity than the moon. That means suits worn on Mars cannot be too heavy.

More About Spacesuits
What Is a Spacesuit?
These Boots Are Made for Walking
A Look at the Development of the Spacesuit, From Past to Present Video
Evolution of the NASA Spacesuit
Constellation Mission, New Spacesuits Video

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Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator