Components of a Space Suit
- Victoria M Lowery
This problem is part of a series of problems that apply algebraic principles in NASA’s human spaceflight. https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/593844main_ALG_ST_SuitYourself_final.pdf The Space Shuttle Mission Control Center (MCC) and the International Space Station (ISS) Control Center use some of the most sophisticated technology and communication equipment in the world. Teams of highly qualified engineers, scientists, doctors, and technicians, known as flight controllers, monitor the systems and activities aboard the space shuttle and the ISS. They work together as a powerful team, spending many hours performing critical simulations as they prepare to support each mission and crew during normal operations and any unexpected events. The Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVA) officer monitors all aspects of the spacewalks performed from the space shuttle and the ISS. The EVA officer monitors the technical operation of the spacesuits and the activities to be carried out prior to a spacewalk. The EVA officer also monitors the space walk from the MCC and evaluates the spacewalk afterward. The spacesuit is officially known as an Extra-vehicular Mobility Unit (EMU). Anytime a crew member has to step outside of a pressurized vehicle, such as the space shuttle or ISS, to work in the vacuum of space, an EMU must be worn.
Suppose an astronaut were to leave a pressurized vehicle without wearing an EMU. Because there is no oxygen, the astronaut would lose consciousness within 15 seconds. While in orbit the sun rises and sets every 90 minutes, which means the astronaut experiences sunlight for 45 minutes with temperatures possibly reaching 120o C (248o F) and darkness for 45 minutes with temperatures possibly dropping to -100o C (-148o F). A typical EVA may be up to 7 hours, which means the astronaut would change from hot to cold or cold to hot, about 9 times during the EVA. These extreme temperature changes and the lack of air pressure would cause the body fluids to boil or freeze. The astronaut would also be exposed to radiation and cosmic rays, and could even be hit by space debris, such as micrometeoroids, that move at high rates of speed. The key features of the EMU that keep the astronauts alive and comfortable are habitable pressure, breathable air, heating and cooling control, and protection from the harsh space environment. It also provides the astronaut the ability to move around with a range of motion for arms and legs, good visibility, and communication with the crew and with the MCC. The EMU is its own controlled environment in which a crew member can perform scheduled activities and planned spacewalks for up to seven hours.
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Space Walk Video Part 1
Space Walk Video Part 2
What was one interesting thing you noticed in the videos?
Create a space suit
On the worksheet provided, design your own space suit. Make sure to review the different components listed on the back of the sheet.
Explore a Real Space Suit
Do you think your space suit design is practical for a space walk? If yes, explain how. If no, what would you add or change to make it better?