Human Shaped Spacecraft

Space is a very harsh and unforgiving place that would kill you in seconds without protection. There is no atmosphere, no air to breath, it can be boiling hot and freezing cold. For humans to explore, or work, in space they need a suit to protect them and support needed to survive. There are several types of spacesuits, varying in design depending on the purpose.

astronaut

What Is a Spacesuit?

A spacesuit is more than just a cool looking uniform astronauts wear when they go into their spacecraft or outer space. A spacesuit protects space travellers from the dangers of the harsh environment in space, while also providing them with the essentials humans need to survive. In essence, a spacesuit is a tiny human-shaped spacecraft!

Why Do Astronauts Need To Wear A Spacesuit?

Space is a difficult place to work and explore as there are none of the comforts we take for granted on Earth. There is no pressurized atmosphere, no air to breathe, no protection from radiation. Temperatures vary greatly from hot to cold (in low Earth orbit temperatures range from 120 °C to -160 °C) and the direct sunlight will quickly burn you. So an astronaut needs to wear a pressurized space suit to protect themselves from all these hazards and provide what they need to survive. So a spacesuit needs to provide;

  • A pressurized environment to prevent your blood from boiling
  • Air (oxygen) to breathe and to remove CO2
  • Warmth while in the freezing shadow
  • Cooling while in the boiling hot sunlight
  • Protection from radiation
  • Protection from micrometeors
  • A water tube to drink from
  • Communication with other astronauts or the spacecraft
  • Clear helmet visors to see, but also a sunshade to protect from the direct sunlight.

What Are The Major Components Of A Spacesuit?!

There are several major components of a modern ‘Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU)’ spacesuit which allows the astronaut to work independently of the spacecraft's systems;

  • Firstly, the astronaut wears a tight garment which has tubes sown into it. Water is pumped through these for cooling.
  • A hard upper torso component covers the chest, back and shoulders. The life support backpack is attached to this component;
    • The backpack contains the air to breathe, CO2 remover, batteries, a fan, cooling pump and water.
    • It also contains a component called SAFER which has small thrusters to be used if the astronaut becomes separated from the spacecraft.
  • The arms and gloves attached to the central torso component.
  • The lower torso component, which covers the legs and feet, attaches to the bottom of the central torso component.
  • Finally, the astronaut will put on their helmet complete with sun visor.

How Many Types Of Spacesuits Are There

Pressure suits were first designed for pilots who were reached high altitudes and needed protection in case their aircraft lost pressure.

The first spacesuits were derived from these earlier designs and used for the Soviet space program as well as America’s first space program - Project Mercury. The American suits were silver (to reflect the harsh sun), and simple as the astronaut stayed in the spacecraft.

During Project Gemini the astronauts began doing space walks so wore more advanced spacesuits which were connected by umbilical cord to the spacecraft.

The spacesuits used during the Apollo Program were much more sophisticated as they needed to allow the astronauts to explore the lunar surface independently away from the spacecraft for hours at a time. As a result, the Apollo space suits were the first to have life support systems in their backpacks.

The design of the EMU, derived from the Apollo lunar suits, was used during the Space Shuttle spacewalks and is still in use on the International Space Station (ISS).

Several designs of a simpler spacesuit are worn by astronauts during spacecraft travel which protects them against an unexpected depressurization during flight.

New designs of pressurized spacesuits are often being revealed as the commercialization of space, and space tourism, gain popularity.

New designs for potential Mars missions are being developed for future human exploration of the Red Planet.

 
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