Blast from the past: Designing spacesuits in 1956

Spacesuits have come a long way since Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin first orbited the Earth in 1961, but back in 1956, designing protective gear for use in space was still new territory. In the article "Here's What We'll Wear," Lloyd Mallan, the author of Men, Rockets And Space Rats, provided a brief overview of how a group of designers made up of "biophysicists, physiologists, anthropologists, electronic scientists and doctors of medicine" were "hard at work determining the cut and materials of future fashions in space dress."

The concept images that accompanied the article showed all sorts of designs for helmets and oxygen masks that were being considered at the time. And because nobody was sure how humans would respond in the spacesuits under pressurized conditions, many of the designs were tested on anesthetized monkeys, dogs, and other mammals. 

According to Mallan (via Modern Mechanix):

Acting as their own guinea pigs, they are locked into altitude chambers, spun wildly on centrifuges, and closed up in insulated rooms. In the process, they discover whether or not their space fashions are practical. And in order to be absolutely certain they plunge needles into their veins and spines, under their skin and over their brains. Wires connected to the needles carry their slightest physical reaction.

To those brave dreamers: we salute you! If not for those radical thinkers and designers who believed in space exploration, NASA wouldn't be on its way to the Buzz Lightyear-inspired Z-1 spacesuit.

Modern Mechanix, via Retronaut

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