The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Collection
Publication Date: May 2009
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The goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth required the development of three things: spacecraft, launch vehicles, and protective clothing. Spacesuits: Within the Collections of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum takes the reader through the development of the last category, the spacesuits used during this venture. Highlighting the pressure suits created during the years leading up to the lunar missions and beyond, this book features dramatic photographs of the Smithsonian’s collection, as well as never-before-published historical images of spacesuit development and testing—range-of-motion studies, for example, in which researchers wore spacesuits while playing baseball and football. The book also includes a group of advanced spacesuits, which, though never used on a mission, are in many respects the most exciting suits ever created. One suit glove has steel fingernails and sharkskin pads, in an attempt to harness the abilities of the human hand.
Spacesuits are surprisingly fragile; they are made for a short lifespan in the most extreme of conditions, and long-term survival is not part of their design process. The final chapter touches briefly on the current conditions of historic suits, how they have held up over time, the reasons for their deterioration, and the rewards and difficulties associated with caring for and preserving these very complex and iconic artifacts. From the first spacesuit designs of the 1930s through those worn on the landmark Apollo-Soyuz program of 1975, Spacesuits provides a behind-the-scenes look at the history of these remarkable creations, including some that have never before been publicly displayed.
Mark Avino is the Chief of Photographic Services in the Office of Communications for the National Air and Space Museum. In addition to a wide variety of photography undertaken at the Museum, he has also contributed to numerous publications and books on the museum's collections, including In the Cockpit: Inside 50 History-Making Aircraft (Collins Design, 2007) and At the Controls: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Book of Cockpits (Boston Mills Press, 2001).
Thomas P. Stafford is a retired Lieutenant General of the U.S. Air Force and a former NASA astronaut. Stafford piloted Gemini VI, the first rendezvous in space (1965), and commanded the Apollo 10 lunar mission (1969) and the historic Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (1975). He is the recipient of many awards in aviation and honorary university degrees.