It can be argued we spend so much time focusing on what astronauts do once they get in their spacecraft and make it up in space, we forget the thousands of hours that go into testing everything the astronauts will touch, do and even wear. The following video is a fun look at early spacesuit testing, showing different models being put through their paces.
Sure it's not in outer space, but it's a great look at the behind-the-scenes that got us there. And yes, one tester does the twist in a space suit proving that NASA left no stone unturned.
While the video shows a variety of suits being tested it doesn't describe the epic battle taking place at NASA to determine just what kind of suit would be best for space travel. Some engineers favored a rigid, metal design — almost like those imagined in 1950s space age books and TV shows. Others were in favor of a more flexible design.
Both kinds of suits were put into testing as you'll see from the video. They tried everything from very skimpy suits that resemble leotards (we can imagine the safety issues raised) to hard shell designs that didn't even allow for the tester to bend over.
In the end, NASA chose a suit made by the International Latex Corporation — better known through their commercial name, Playtex. To find out a tampon and underwear maker created the original space suits came as something of a surprise to me, but in a way it does make sense.
Playtex was well versed in creating both hard and soft materials and combining them for personal use.
In the end, the winning suits utilized 21 layers of fabric, which were custom sewn for each astronaut by seamstresses who usually worked on bras and underwear. Each of the layers served a unique purpose, but was also related to the other layers so they were able to function as a whole unit and would work with the astronaut.
This suit went up against many other prototypes, and ultimately won out when it was proved the hard shell versions couldn't do what only the Playtex suit did — integrating the human body with the functionality of the suit. It was that core mission requirement that won them the contract.
Some pretty high praise for the suit came from Neil Armstrong who wrote, "it was tough, reliable and almost cuddly." Now that sounds like a winning suit!
Enjoy the old NASA footage set to a modern beat as the testers hop up and down, jump off ladders and even roll on the floor like they are trying out for a music video.