• Man in space suit. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

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    Man in Space Suit
    • Creator
    • National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 10/1/1958-.
    • Description
    • This is a photograph of a man wearing one of the space suits designed for the Mercury-Atlas 6 flight.
    • Rights
    • Unrestricted.
    • Partner
    • National Archives and Records Administration
    • Contributing Institution
    • National Archives at Fort Worth

  • This suit was called the Model B1-A. These experimental suits were designed to maintain an almost perfectly constant volume while enabling a full range of body motions. Courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

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    Pressure Suit, Adavanced Extravehicular Suit, B1-A
    • Description
    • This suit was manufactured by Litton Industries, which made a series of Advanced Extra-Vehicular Suits (AES) during the early 1960s that were of a constant volume whether pressurized or unpressurized. This one was called the Model B1-A, of which appr... more
      This suit was manufactured by Litton Industries, which made a series of Advanced Extra-Vehicular Suits (AES) during the early 1960s that were of a constant volume whether pressurized or unpressurized. This one was called the Model B1-A, of which approximately six were made, and was not equipped with a thermal cover-layer. It had a hemispherical helmet made of polycarbonate. These experimental suits were designed to maintain an almost perfectly constant volume while enabling a full range of body motions. They could operate at higher pressure, thus reducing the time-consuming oxygen pre-breathing period before extra vehicular activities. NASA transferred the suit to the National Air and Space Museum in 1979. less
    • Rights
    • Transferred from NASA - Headquarters. Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum.
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    • Smithsonian Institution
    • Contributing Institution
    • National Air and Space Museum

  • The AX-3 was designed at NASA Ames Research Center in the middle 1970s. A prototype, it was created to prove that a highly mobile suit requiring little effort to operate could use an internal operating pressure of 8 pounds per square inch. Courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

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    Pressure Suit, AX-3
    • Creator
    • William Elkins.
    • Description
    • The AX-3 was designed at NASA Ames Research Center in the middle 1970s. A prototype, it was created to prove that a highly mobile suit requiring little effort to operate could use an internal operating pressure of 8 pounds per square inch. It is made... more
      The AX-3 was designed at NASA Ames Research Center in the middle 1970s. A prototype, it was created to prove that a highly mobile suit requiring little effort to operate could use an internal operating pressure of 8 pounds per square inch. It is made of a single wall laminated fabric with sealed bearings and a double-walled fiberglass upper torso. Its modular construction allowed for size adjustment and testing of different mobility joint systems. Transferred from NASA - Ames Research Center to NASM in 2004. less
    • Rights
    • Transferred from NASA, Ames Research Center. Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum.
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    • Smithsonian Institution
    • Contributing Institution
    • National Air and Space Museum

  • Astronaut Sally K. Ride wore these clothes during the six-day STS-7 Space Shuttle mission aboard Challenger in June 1983, when she became the first U.S. woman in space. Courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

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    Jacket, In-Flight Suit, Shuttle, Sally Ride, STS-7
    • Description
    • Astronaut Sally K. Ride wore these clothes during the six-day STS-7 Space Shuttle mission aboard Challenger in June 1983, when she became the first U.S. woman in space. As a mission specialist in the first five-member Shuttle crew, she operated a var... more
      Astronaut Sally K. Ride wore these clothes during the six-day STS-7 Space Shuttle mission aboard Challenger in June 1983, when she became the first U.S. woman in space. As a mission specialist in the first five-member Shuttle crew, she operated a variety of orbiter systems and experiment payloads. She participated in the launch of two commercial communications satellites and also operated the remote manipulator system arm to maneuver, release, and retrieve a free-flying satellite. The early Shuttle mission astronauts had a NASA-issued wardrobe of identical blue cotton-blend jackets, trousers, shorts and knit shirts with attached NASA logo and mission patches. Dr. Ride presented her in-flight suit to the Museum in a ceremony shortly after the STS-7 mission. less
    • Rights
    • Transferred from National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum.
    • Partner
    • Smithsonian Institution
    • Contributing Institution
    • National Air and Space Museum

In 1969, America witnessed Neil Armstrong take mankind’s first step on the Moon, leaving footprints on its surface from the boots of his spacesuit. Spacesuits like Armstrong’s protected astronauts from the deadly conditions in space. They maintained a steady pressure, allowed for movement, regulated body temperature, supplied oxygen, eliminated carbon dioxide, and collected bodily waste.

Adapted from previously constructed suits made for high-altitude military pilots, spacesuits were originally designed for pressure stabilization. Because there is zero pressure in space, the suit worn by the first US astronaut in space, Alan Shepard, was designed to protect him in case of depressurization inside the cabin of Project Mercury’s Freedom 7. Luckily, no Mercury spacecraft ever lost pressure during a mission.

The suits evolved so astronauts could travel into space and leave their spacecraft. When Ed White became the first American to perform a spacewalk in 1965, he remained connected to the ship via an umbilical cord that provided life support. For independence on the lunar surface, astronauts used a portable life support system (PLSS) worn like a backpack. Due to differences in gravity, the suits and PLSS combined weighed thirty pounds on the Moon but a hefty 180 pounds on Earth.