Space Suit of the Week

Like the Grumman Moon Suit, this is a prototype that didn’t quite make it off of the ground, even though it is the brainchild of Dr. Wernher von Braun (from before.) He was the rocket scientist who led the team that developed the Saturn series of rockets. In that series was the Saturn V rocket, which carried the first humans to the moon. But in 1954, when von Braun was photographed holding a model of his “bottle suit” above, the moon landing was still fifteen years away, and von Braun was working with Walt Disney to produce Man and the Moon. (Watch von Braun talk about his suit here, starting around 3:00) 

Behind the absurd look of the bottle suit is an idea about how we could occupy and operate in outer-space safely; with a kind of mechanical dexterity—wearing a machine. Sure, it looks like a go-go-gadget ice cream cone, but it’s the result of following an idea to an unexpected and creative conclusion. The Bottle Suit is more than just a suit… it’s a rocket with arms, several of them, and is controlled by someone with great depth perception, but who doesn’t suffer from claustrophobia. 

Most of you folks reading this weren’t around to watch the original airing of Man and the Moon back in 1955 (I sure wasn’t) but I wish we could have experienced the global thrill that accompanied the confluence of design, science and enthusiasm that lead to our landing on the moon. Von Braun was behind that confluence, engineering the mechanisms, writing the books and designing the sometimes crazy-looking space suits that anticipated, and eventually enabled a tremendous accomplishment. What if, in that moment of wonder, it hadn’t been a small step, but a small pull of the lever?


January 21, 2011