Photographs of this “mysterious man wearing a space suit” were taken by Natsumi Hayashi. Maybe it’s appropriate that a photographer best known for her levitating self-portraits would have an interest in zero gravity couture, but I can’t find any information on the suit, itself. Who made this delightful helmet-turned-terrarium? The suit reminds me of small planters from designer Matteo Cibic:
Big thanks to Johnny from from Spoon & Tamago for sending in pictures of the mystery suit.
Yesterday, Discovery launched without further delay for the 38th and final time into space. I’ve mentioned before that Discovery propelled the first American woman into space, launched the Hubble telescope, and has now carried Robonaut 2 to the International Space Station. Its launch is significant not just because of Discovery’s history (here is a timeline of Discovery milestones) but also because it brings us closer to the end of all shuttle missions.
Today, we’re featuring the photographs of Matthias Schaller from a recent exhibition at Ben Brown Fine Arts. Even though the suits are empty, they have a presence about them that is unsettling. A statement from the artist reads, in part:
…I believe we are all astronauts. We are all alone, we are isolated from each other. And we are all trying by verbal and non-verbal communication to get in contact with each other. To not feel alone. Each individual is a space with its own rules, materials, history and relations to the space outside of itself.
It’s not exactly uplifting. Part of the curatorial text mentions Schaller’s interest in what we’ve left behind. As NASA undergoes major structural changes, the fear is that we’re abandoning things in the future.
The Space Suit of the Week is the EX-1A! In the video above, you can see Bill Elkins, the man largely responsible for the suit, demonstrating the mobility of his design in the late ’60s. The range of movement in this suit is superior to previous suits because it uses a special kind of toroidal joint. “Toroidal” sounds fancy, but it basically means that the joints are shaped like donuts, albeit really complicated metal donuts… for outer space. The Smithsonian Air and Space Magazine has an excellent interview with Elkins that covers the territory from the time he withstood 16.5 magnitude g-forces while staying conscious to the EX-1A suit.
About the battle between hard and soft suits, Elkins says:
“There are some advantages of the hard suit, although I did not remain a proponent of it. The hard suit had value for being able to go to much higher pressures. The higher you go, the less likely you are to have the bends when exiting a higher-pressure space vehicle. So if you were wearing [a hard suit], you could scramble to do an emergency [spacewalk] because you didn’t have to pre-breathe for four hours. It’s a very mobile little spaceship, if you will. Vic Vykukal, a NASA Ames engineer, also did pioneering work on the hard suit. The soft suit came from a line of pressure suits used by the Air Force and Navy. BF Goodrich’s soft suits for the Mercury project were evolved from a Navy pressure suit… It was a question of cultures and politics within the R&D labs. There was the West Coast technology such as Litton, and NASA’s Ames Research lab; but then the older timers from the East who knew soft suits. Ultimately, soft suits won out.”
Every time I read suit engineers talking about suit design (and the one time I’ve actually asked an astronaut) they say the biggest challenge of the suit is accommodating movement at pressure. Which doesn’t sound very exciting, but has lead to innovative design solutions, including hard suits like the EX-1A. And even though hard suits never made it off the ground, maybe it’s better that they explore space only in our heads, floating around between the moon and donuts.
Many helpful readers e-mailed me suggesting this Space Suit of the Week, so you may have already seen this. It’s an image of an astronaut wearing an Apollo suit casually crossing 6th avenue… on fire. The image comes courtesy of photographer Jack Crossing, who posted the photo to his photostream last week. Information about the image is scarce: “This was a concept for a band in the states, they decided not to go with it. Instead My brothers label is going to use it.” I would probably buy any musical recording that had this on the cover. So what is the perfect album name for this image? I’m going to say Apollo 451, but I’d love to hear your idea.
Speaking of suggestions, if you have a suit up your sleeve that deserves to be featured, please e-mail me: [email protected]
Geeze Louise, I’m a big fan of these paintings by Emilio Santoyo, who describes the suits as “kind of like space suits if Mad Max took place in space.” Yes! That is an amazing idea that should happen. What happened, for real, is that Emilio completed these paintings for a group show called Non Sequitur at the Hibbleton Art Gallery. Sadly, the show is down as of this week to make room for something that probably will not feature leather jackets, sweet boots, and the heroic positioning. Emilio says: “I really liked what came out of the show in the end. Though I dont normally work in this theme, I might change up my work a bit.”
He also completed paintings that look like the prop rooms from bygone sci-fi movies, one of which is available on his site as a wallpaper. “My idea of what the prop room must of looked like in the time where everything was built. Everything was made from blinking light bulb work stations, monster heads, alien space ships in space, to large futurist cities. I think we all would enjoy the chance to run free in those studios and put stuff on and probably break a lot of things in the process.”