Behind the Spacesuit

Ethan Wong

December 23, 2022

During the COUNTLESS missions into the vast unknown of space, one of the most paramount things is the safety of astronauts throughout their journey. Since the 1960s, space suits have been helping to protect humans during their trip into space; a design that is required to separate them from a vacuum while providing water, oxygen, and heat. Overall, the space suit helps to protect astronauts from different effects in space such as radiation, extreme temperatures (ranging from 250 degrees/-250 degrees), as well as debris and other conditions. This suit can be used on many occasions, such as from moonwalking around the ISS, to landing and walking on the Moon. And you cannot forget the essentials to survive in space. The spacesuit also provides astronauts with the correct amount of pressurization whilst constantly supplying water and oxygen.

One of the most interesting and clearly visible attributes of the suit is the helmet, which attracts the eyes of many people due to its gold visor. The helmets allow astronauts to breathe in space and keep ventilation circulating without carbon dioxide overflow, which would create a toxic atmosphere for the astronauts. The gold visor on the front helps to protect against the sun and the powerful radiation and beams that shine directly on the astronauts during their work. 

Other small, yet important additions are the gloves and extra layers of shoes worn by the astronauts. Gloves help to keep hands warm in space; these thick layers keep them safe from sharp rocks/surfaces while fixing things on the ISS. While on the Moon, these astronauts must also wear protective shoes to simply preserve the fragile layers underneath–if torn up, could cause the astronaut to die. An image of one of these shoe prints ultimately became one of the most-used images for conspiracists when supporting their theory that the moon landing was “fake and staged”.

Next is the cooling garment, which is filled with over 300 tubes that have chilled water flowing through them up next to the skin to help with heat circulation throughout the body. An astronauts’ ensemble can comprise over 16 different layers: the bladder layer which helps to maintain oxygen inside the spacesuit and also protects from space dust. This is held together by another layer. Following that are many more layers that act as a giant blanket around the astronauts to keep their temperatures stable from the cold and harsh space environment. Some of the last layers are white and can be visibly seen; this help to reflect the sun and also contain important aspects: threads that are bulletproof, fire-resistant, and water-resistant.

Next is the Life Support System…one of the MOST IMPORTANT things equipped with the space suit. This provides oxygen for the astronauts and allows them to remain at the correct and stable pressure to survive. It also has fans that allow oxygen to move about the suit while CO2 is pushed out and won’t intoxicate the astronauts. There are also communication/radio devices, and cooling systems for the water which is pumped down through the cooling garment.

While the spacesuit might sound incredibly boring, it does come with some interesting perks. On the space shuttle, they had a term referred to as the “green apple”, which was used in emergencies by astronauts. Although this procedure didn’t involve fruit or eating at all, it instead was a mechanism attached to the pressure suits of the astronauts which would trigger parachutes and save them from emergency/ life-threatening danger whilst aboard. However, out of over 135 launches, they never ended up using this “green apple”, thankfully. While on Challenger, the crew had not been wearing pressure suits so this procedure would’ve done nothing for them. In Columbia, the disaster was so extreme that the parachute escape method would not have done anything to remedy the situation or save the crew.