Astronauts wear spacesuits to stay safe in space. Today’s spacesuits are used on the International Space Station. But NASA has used other spacesuits in the past.
What Were Early Spacesuits Like?
NASA astronauts first flew into space during the Mercury program. NASA’s first spacesuits were made for Mercury. The Mercury suits were only worn inside the spacecraft.
NASA’s first spacewalks took place during its second space program, Gemini. 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?
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. Astronauts needed to walk away from the lunar lander. The Apollo suits had a life support system. The astronauts could go far away from the lander because they weren’t connected by a hose.
After the Apollo flights, astronauts orbited Earth on a space station named Skylab. Their spacesuits were like the Apollo suits in some ways. But like the Gemini suits, these suits connected to Skylab with a hose.
What Suits Did Astronauts Wear on the Space Shuttle?
During launch and landing of the space shuttle, astronauts wore orange suits. These suits could only be worn inside a spacecraft. Astronauts wore heavy white spacesuits when going on spacewalks outside the space shuttle. These same heavy white suits are sometimes used when astronauts go on spacewalks outside the space station.
What Other Suits Do Astronauts Wear?
NASA astronauts wear other kinds of spacesuits. 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?
NASA plans to send people to places that humans have never gone before, like an asteroid and, one day, Mars. That means astronauts will need new spacesuits.
So NASA is working on making new ones. Like the Apollo spacesuits, the new suits will let the astronauts work safely on rocky ground. But the new spacesuits will help astronauts do things they couldn’t do before. The new suits will make it easier for astronauts to move. They will better protect astronauts from dust. (Dust can be rough, like sandpaper.) And the new suits will have parts that can be swapped out.
Why are the new spacesuits important? They will make it easier and safer for astronauts to live and work in space.
David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services
Rebecca Dorfmueller/NASA Educational Technology Services