Student Features

What Is a Spacesuit?
Lee in a spacesuit in front of Earth, with the shuttle in the foreground

Mark Lee's spacesuit allowed him to fly freely away from the space shuttle during this test of the SAFER backpack. Image Credit: NASA
View Larger Image   →

A spacesuit is more than clothes astronauts wear in space. The suit is really a small spacecraft. It protects the astronaut from the dangers of being outside in space.

Why Do Astronauts Need Spacesuits?

Spacesuits help astronauts in many ways. The suits protect astronauts from getting too hot or cold. Spacesuits also give astronauts oxygen to breathe while they are working in space. The suits hold water to drink. They also keep astronauts from getting hurt by space dust. Space dust may not sound very dangerous. But when it moves faster than a bullet, the dust can hurt someone. The suits even have special gold-lined visors to protect eyes from bright sunlight.

What Are the Parts of a Spacesuit?

A spacesuit is made up of many parts. One part covers the astronaut's chest. Another part covers the arms and connects to the gloves. The helmet protects the head. And the last part covers the astronaut's legs and feet. Some parts of the suit are made of many layers of material. Each layer does something different. Some keep oxygen in the suit while others protect astronauts from space dust.

McArthur and Tokarev hold spacesuits in front of them aboard the International Space Station

Astronaut Bill McArthur (left) and cosmonaut Valery Tokarev display American (left) and Russian spacesuits. Image Credit: NASA
View Larger Image

Under the suit, astronauts wear another piece of clothing. It covers their body except for the head, hands and feet. Tubes are woven into it. Water flows through the tubes to keep the astronaut cool.

On the back of the spacesuit is a backpack. The backpack holds oxygen so astronauts can breathe. It also removes carbon dioxide that astronauts have breathed out. The backpack also supplies electricity for the suit. A fan moves the oxygen through the spacesuit. A water tank holds the cooling water.

Connected to the back of the suit is a tool called SAFER. SAFER has several small thruster jets. If an astronaut floated away from the space station, he or she could use SAFER to fly back.

More About Spacesuits
NASA Education Spacesuits and Spacewalks Web Site
Frequently Asked Questions   →
How Do You Gross Out Your Friends With a Spacesuit? Video
How Do You Scratch Your Nose in a Spacesuit? Video
Should You Pull Over When an Astronaut Floats by? Video
These Boots Are Made for Walking
The Construction and Design Elements of Spacesuit Technology Video
The Importance of Spacesuit Fitting and Sizing: One Size Does Not Fit All Video
ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA): Astronauts Walk in Space Video
A Look at the Development of the Spacesuit, From Past to Present Video
Spacesuits and How They Work Video
Evolution of the NASA Spacesuit

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services
Find this article at: