Spacesuits FAQ

 

Why do the astronauts wear different suits, for liftoff and for spacewalks?

Does it take less energy to keep an astronaut cool or warm while they are in the spacesuit?

Would a person explode if they were exposed to space without a spacesuit?

How heavy are the spacesuits?

Who invented the first spacesuit?

How long does it take to remove an EVA suit if you were in a hurry?

 

 

QUESTION:

Why do the astronauts wear different suits, for liftoff and for spacewalks?

 

ANSWER from Karina Shook on April 21, 1997:

The spacesuit that the astronauts wear during their spacewalks is essentially a one-person spacecraft. It provides a pressurized environment, breathing oxygen, cooling, communication, and protection from micrometeoroids. It would be impossible to wear in a shuttle seat. The orange Launch and Entry Suit (LES) is worn only during launch and entry, and its primary purpose is to protect the crew from loss of cabin pressure during either of those two phases of flight. It will also help to protect the crew from a harsh environment such as fire and smoke, toxic chemicals, or cold ocean water. The orange color would assist rescue crews in finding the astronauts after a bailout.

 

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QUESTION:

Does it take less energy to keep an astronaut cool or warm while they are in the spacesuit?

 

ANSWER from Karina Shook on August 28, 1998:

The spacesuit actually only provides cooling. Crewmembers are kept warm by their own body heat as they work, because the suit prevents most of this heat from radiating away. Cooling is provided by a Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment (LCVG), which looks like those pajamas with feet in them that most of us wore as kids, except that it has small tubes running all over it. The crew controls the temperature of the water flowing through the tubes by adjusting a valve on the front of the suit, which changes how much of the water in the system flows past an ice pack to get cooled off. For the International Space Station, we have modified the suit to allow the crew to stop the water in the LCVG from flowing by the ice pack if they're getting too cold. Of course, each crewmember's comfort level is unique, as is the amount of body heat they'll generate as they work, and these are also dependent on the environment they're working in (sun or shade).

 

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QUESTION:

Would a person explode if they were exposed to space without a spacesuit?

 

ANSWER from Sean Kelley on April 26, 1999:

The "exploding person" is really a sci-fi kind of thing - it looks good in the movies. In reality one of two things would happen, you'd either die because your blood would boil, due to the decrease in pressure, or you'd quickly freeze to death due to the cold. The pressure differential is not great enough to explode the body (the space suits are only about 4 psi above vacuum), but some may rupture/tear. Also, space suits are designed to accept a tear in the suit (but not too large) by increasing the oxygen flow to allow time to retreat to the space vehicle. In training, we've had suit gloves pop off in a vacuum, and no permanent damage was done.

 

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QUESTION:

How heavy are the spacesuits?

 

ANSWER from Sean Kelley on April 11, 1999:

The orange launch and entry suit (LES) is about 35-40 pounds. The suit that crewmembers wear in space outside the vehicle is much heavier, over 300 pounds. If it weren't for a lack of gravity in space, the suit would be too heavy to use.

 

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QUESTION:

Who invented the first spacesuit?

 

ANSWER from Tony Bruins on October 6, 1998:

The first space suit was built by B.F. Goodrich. The first prototype spacesuit was used to support the Air Force for high attitude space flight. Hamilton Standard built NASA's Apollo spacesuits.

 

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QUESTION:

How long does it take to remove an EVA suit if you were in a hurry?

 

ANSWER from Mike Hembree on August 28, 1998:

The EVA suit consists of a hard upper shell and a soft lower torso (pants). In an emergency situation, the crewmember would unlatch the lower torso from the hard shell and sliding out of the hard shell. It would then be a matter of pulling off the "pants" to completely remove the suit. This whole process would only take about 5 minutes.

 

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