Space Suit – 1

You probably visited this article to find the answers to the questions in the following items. Because we have a rich language, the same word is used in more than one way. Now, what we will learn in the article series, let’s look together.

  • What is an astronaut suit?
  • First spacesuit,
  • Spacesuit features,
  • Neil Armstrong spacesuit,
  • Why are space suits made?
  • What parts do spacesuits consist of?
  • How much does the spacesuit weigh?
  • Special clothing designed for space,
  • What part does the spacesuit consist of?
  • Does the spacesuit protect from radiation?
  • What is the price of the space suit?
  • How to make a space suit?
  • Why is an astronaut suit necessary?
  • How do astronauts go to the toilet with space suits?
  • What happens if the astronaut gasses on his spacewalk?
  • Historical development of the astronaut suit.

What is a Spacesuit?

It is the clothing that allows astronauts to work and live in space, protecting their bodies from external influences. For an astronaut, it can be defined as a “small spacecraft” rather than just a suit he wears in space.

When speaking of external influences, this does not just describe the stuffy atmosphere of space. The suits also protect astronauts from overheating or getting cold, they are sophisticated suits that also provide astronauts with oxygen and drinking water to breathe during space missions. On the other hand, the eyes of the astronauts are protected thanks to the helmet-mounted special gold-lined visors, which are part of the astronaut’s clothing, as there is no atmospheric barrier in space.

In addition to providing this vital support to the astronauts, the suit also prevents the astronauts from being harmed by space dust. What is meant by these dusts is small particles, materials, etc., scattered into space for various reasons, both natural (explosions in the universe, comet dust, meteoroids, etc.) and man-made (satellite accidents, etc.). consists of Since these parts have very fast movements, they pose serious risks to astronauts. The orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) has been chosen for this reason, relative to other satellite orbits.

Cold War Periods

The perfection of a spacesuit is directly proportional to how well you know space and space weather. Many of the data obtained in the first space studies before manned flights were obtained through satellites and probes sent into space.

Especially during the cold war times, it was not possible for the two opposing superpowers to share information as it is now. Both countries paid the price by losing their own experience – partly on missions rushed towards political goals – by losing their astronauts and cosmonauts or their spacecraft. While this is the case; Although scientists have made efforts, the protection degrees and possibilities of the first clothes were not as modern as today’s clothes.

However, the end of the cold war period, the financial burdens of space studies, etc. Then, with developments such as the signing of various agreements between countries, space studies gained a different dimension. In accordance with this agreement, the parties; It also includes assisting spacecraft personnel who make unintentional and unplanned landings in their own country in the event of a possible spacecraft accident or life-threatening astronauts.

When Was Space Suits Really Used?

Space suits have undergone many changes over time. Although different countries developed different designs for their spacecraft and personnel, they all focused on the common goal of greater human protection.

Before moving on to the requirements of space suits, let’s continue our article by taking a look at the first and important space programs and what happened in these programs. Because the first missions and the tragedies experienced in these missions are the reasons behind how painful experiences have come to this day by removing the space suit from being a simple protective suit.

Project Mercury

Mercury Uzay Giysisi

Image-1. Mercury space suits-1961 (Image Credit: NASA)

The Mercury project is the United States’ first manned space travel project. Beginning in 1959, it continued until 1963, when humans were sent into Earth orbit. The project costing 1.5 billion dollars; It was named after the so-called Roman god Mercury, who was the symbol of speed.

NASA astronauts first flew into space during the Mercury Program. NASA’s first space suits were also made for Mercury, but these suits were worn only inside the spacecraft, not in the outer space environment.

The test pilot who took part in the Mercury program; He passed out and was seriously injured while testing the Mercury cabin and spacesuit atmosphere system in the vacuum chamber. The problem was found to be nitrogen-rich (oxygen-poor) air leaking from the cabin into the spacesuit feed.

The astronauts selected within the framework of the program were naturally selected from the aircraft pilots. However, only 7 of the 110 selected pilots had the distinction of being astronauts. Although the project is the first manned flight in its field, not only humans, but also chimpanzees named “Miss Sam”, “Ham”, “Enos” and “Sam” (primates) participated in this program.

Project Gemini

Gemini Uzay Giysisi

Image-2: Gemini space suits-1966 (Image Credit: NASA)

NASA’s second space program was carried out within the framework of the Gemini Program. The suits used in the project were manufactured by the David Clark Company of Massachusetts and were better than previous Mercury suits. However, it was still simpler than today’s suits and did not include its own life support units necessary for astronauts. Instead, the astronaut was attached to a special hose to the spacecraft support systems so that he could breathe oxygen.

The 10.7 kg G3C used in this program, suitable for both in-cabin (IVA) and out-of-cabin (EVA) use, and the 15.4 kg G4C series similar suits were designed by NASA according to the X-15 high-altitude pressure suit. This entire line of dresses had a pressure of 3.7 PSI.

It was covered with 6 layers of G3C nylon and Nomex® fabric. Nomex® is a flame and high temperature resistant fiber; it does not melt, drip and does not catch fire in contact with air. Today, clothes produced with the same technology; It is also used by firefighters, race drivers, racetrack crews and security forces.

The Mylar (polyester film) layer was used for temperature control in both types of clothing. In fact, we are no strangers to Mylar fabric. Examples of these are solar filters or, most commonly, shiny balloons that appear to be covered with Helium-filled metallic gelatin.

These suits also contained minor changes so that the pilot of the spacecraft could command more easily. A new design was made in Gemini 9A. The plexiglass helmet faceplate has been replaced with a higher-strength polycarbonate plastic material.

The G4C was equipped with the Ventilation Control Module (the device with the valve and buttons on the astronaut’s forearm) and the Extravehicular Life Support System (ELSS). ELSS; It refers to the large backpack that we are accustomed to seeing on the backs of astronauts in the outer space environment and that contains the communication system, water, battery and oxygen tanks.

The spare support unit of the G4C series suit could provide a maximum of 30 minutes of spare life support. Therefore, the entire line of suits (Gemini-G3C, G4C and G5C, and A1C on Apollo) had to remain attached to the spacecraft by hoses for primary life support.

In the ongoing developments with the G5C series, it was decided that astronauts can wear suits for the cabin during non-critical phases of flight, after the analysis of the biomedical data collected in this mission, when astronauts had difficulty putting on and taking off heavy suits due to their size. ISS astronauts also wear short-sleeved T-shirts for their routine activities inside the ISS today.

The main mission of this project; It was the preparation of the Apollo program that would come after him and undertake the important mission of going to the Moon. However, this work did not fail to achieve significant success. It took its place in history as a record-breaking project in many areas of itself and its predecessors, such as leaving its door open for 172 minutes to test gravity while orbiting the Earth, making 120 orbits, and having the first astronaut to walk freely. In the space.

There were some misfortunes in the Gemini project as well. For example, the launch of Gemini-6 in 1965 was canceled during firing. On the other hand, the first docking maneuvers in orbit were also tested in the Gemini project (Gemini-8). However, in the first docking attempt, the vehicles involuntarily started to turn about one revolution per second and the docking systems were separated from each other. Fortunately, the astronauts were successful in trying to balance the thrusters, but this mission had to be terminated earlier than planned due to the fuel consumed during this time.

Project Apollo

Apollo Astronotları uzay giysisi

Image-3. Apollo space suits 1969-1970 (Image Credit: NASA)

By 1969-1970, spacesuits designed for the Apollo program had to do what the Mercury and Gemini teams couldn’t, because additional protection was needed as the astronauts would land on the Moon’s surface.

The primary pressure suit designed for Project Apollo was named Skylab A7L, designed and manufactured by ILC Dover. The suit was made to be fireproof because it was important to protect the astronauts in the event of a possible fire-like situation.

Each mission program actually preceded the next program and provided invaluable information. Apollo-1, like the series that came after it, was designed for the Moon mission. However, on January 27, 1967, during the launch rehearsal at the launch complex, 3 astronauts were burned to death in the fire that occurred in the cabin.

The loss of life had begun with a series of negligence. It was rehearsing and the rocket’s fuel tanks were not refueled, the explosive bolts (pyrotechnics) were disabled. Therefore, the possible general risks of the test were ignored. The silver-plated copper wire passing through an environmental control unit near the middle seat is stripped of its Teflon insulation and corroded by repeated opening and closing of a small access door, as well as the fire caused by the electrical contact, flammable nylon material, pressurized pure oxygen, and the lid that cannot be opened due to internal pressure is the spice of the boiler. has been. This cover is still in the museum as a memory reminding of the sad day, and after this event, the capsule and cover designs were completely changed, and the cover design launched with controlled explosives in emergency situations was started to be used.

Footsteps of Tragedy

Strange Smell: The astronauts arrived in the cabin and settled into their seats. After the crew noticed an odor resembling sour buttermilk in the dress, it was interrupted, but the cause of the smell was not found.

Communication Problem: The communication problem between the astronauts and the test center was again asked by Grissom, who noticed the smell, “If we can’t talk between two or three buildings, how will we get to the Moon?” question came to the fore, and once again a break was made and troubleshooting studies were started.

Just when everything was going well, a conversation was heard in the communication system that there was a fire in the cockpit. In a few seconds of conversation, the astronauts said they were on fire and wanted to get out, but that never happened. Fueled by pure oxygen, the intensity of the fire caused the pressure to rise to 29 PSI and broke the inner wall of the command module. Pure oxygen was used to prevent astronauts from getting hit just like divers, but in the event, the combustion of pressurized oxygen in the closed environment suddenly increased the cabin temperature to over 500 degrees Celsius and many components inside melted.

Ground Crew Desperation: Intense heat, dense smoke, and ineffective gas masks designed for toxic fumes rather than heavy smoke hindered ground crew’s attempts to rescue the men. Both uneasiness and unpreparedness to intervene were mixed with panic. One of his concerns was that the solid-fuel rocket in the command module or the launch escape tower located above the module might be fired.

Yanmış Uzay Giysisi

Image-4. (Image Credit: NASA)

Sad End: After 90 minutes, the bodies of the astronauts could be removed. The scenery was terrible. Cabin lights on, smoke, molten clothes of astronauts in molten suits…

Despite the horrific fire, the astronauts still followed the emergency procedures with a final effort, but could not open the hatch due to the pressure inside the cabin. The astronaut, who had to maintain communication until the hatch was opened, was also in place and strapped to his seat.

As a result of the subsequent investigation; One quarter of the crew’s space suits melted, there were 3rd degree burns on half of their bodies, it was reported in the reports that they lost their lives as a result of cardiac arrest caused by high carbon monoxide concentrations in the cabin as a result of the melting of the space suits and oxygen cylinders, and the burns occurred after their deaths.

This event has been a turning point that shows how risky space studies can be, where even minor disruptions are ignored. But every space mission was still risky and full of unknown surprises. Another memorable event would go down in history as the Challenger shuttle disaster. In Challenger, which exploded after take-off, it was experienced when a pair of rubber gaskets called o-rings connecting the propellant rockets could not stretch sufficiently during ignition due to the cold air and the flame from the left propeller sprayed into the outer tank.

Moon Preparation

Apollo program suits had special boots made for walking on the rocky floor of the Moon. Due to their mission, astronauts had to move away from the lunar spacecraft carrying them, and therefore the suits had a portable life support system on the back. Thanks to this freedom, the astronauts were able to move away from the main spacecraft independently without being connected to the main spacecraft by hoses.

Skylab Uzay İstasyonu

Image-5. Skylab Space station (Image Credit: NASA)

On a space station called Skylab, the outfits used were similar to those in the Apollo program, but like the Gemini program suits, they had to be connected to Skylab with a hose for life support.

See you in the next article…

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Aysun Bagiyeva Alirza

Dünyadaki Mars Projesi (DMP) Azerbaycan gönüllüsü ve yazarı. [ Mars on Earth Project (MoEP) Azerbaijan Chapter Volunteer and author. ]

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