Felix Baumgartner plans to do what no man has ever done before at heights no man has experienced: he is going to become the first man to break the sound barrier with a free fall leap. He will jump with only his pressure space suit to shelter him as he soars into the history books at a record breaking 720 miles per hour.
Strapped into a suit sponsored by the energy drink that promises to give you wings, Red Bull, forty three year old former Austrian paratrooper Baumgartner will jump a record breaking 22 miles above the earth this Sunday, October 14th. Although the jump was originally planned for this past Wednesday, if successful the jump this weekend will be 65 years to the day that mankind first made the giant leap over the sound barrier. Flyboy Chuck Yeager aboard a rocket beast X-1 named Glamorous Glennis after his wife was the first man to crush this barrier on October 14, 1942.
The dive to earth will take just over five minutes before his parachute opens to cushion him home. Until then he has only his full pressure suit. Baumgartner’s suit resembles that of a shuttle astronaut. It has four layers: a comfort liner, a gas container fitted to his body, netting to keep the aforementioned layer in place, and an insulating exterior shell. The suit is unique in its degree of maneuverability. This trait is critical in the mission’s success. Andrew Zaleski wrote the following in the July/August issue of The Atlantic:
And this is where Baumgartner’s suit represents such a leap forward. If he’s to have a decent shot at surviving the fall, his suit must be maneuverable. He needs to go from a pencil dive, when he first hops off his capsule’s platform, into a head-down “delta” position, with his arms at his side. If he flubs that hop–if he pushes off with too much force, say–he could tumble into an uncontrolled spin, the force of which could kill him. And so his getup, unlike NASA space suits, which come in 12 standard sizes, is custom-tailored.
When Fearless Felix makes his leap, his suit, helmet and gloves are his only protection from a thin atmosphere and chillingly cold temperatures.
His blood could boil or gravity could crush him into the ground, but his biggest fear derives from his one source of protection: overwhelming claustrophobia. During his leap as well as the two-hour assent to record heights he will be in single radio communication with the individual that helped him conquer this fear: Joe Kittinger. Eighty four year old former command pilot Kittinger who previously set the free fall world record in 1960 with a 19 mile leap comments the new suit, “Comparing my equipment to what Felix has is like comparing a Model T to a 2020 Ferrari.”
Emilio Pucci designed the Space Bubble Helmet for Dallas-based Braniff Airlines in 1965. These glass bubble domes were designed to keep flight attendants hairstyles from getting ruined on the windy tarmac. Pucci designed the attendents uniforms with the same flair and bright patterns that he is known for. Braniff wanted to create a new way of flying and branded itself as the rebel airline; Pucci was hired by Wells, Rich, Greene along with New Mexico architect Alexander Girard and shoe designer Beth Levine to design the “End of the Plain Plane” campaign. The air fleet was painted in nine different colors with bright Herman Miller interiors that matched the vibrancy of its airline crew.
The Braniff brand became a new jet-setting lifestyle. The Pucci space helmet, while being sophisticated and elegant, was playful in an era where headwear was dominated by military caps & wool pill boxes (a la Jackie Kennedy). It gave color and vibrancy to a jet-setting, moon-landing era. Similarly, Pucci designed the Apollo 15 patch of three stylized birds flying over the lunar surface – further proof that there is nothing plain to human flight.
Dominik Smialowski casts a skyfarer in the vast green and lush Icelandic landscape with his The Pilot’s Melancholy. The astronaut is all alone, isolated with only the grey, cloudy sky above to comfort him. His suit, intricate with its ties, buckles and features resembles an exoskeleton–a plush shell harded to protect against the elements and possibly loneliness.
At the end of an incredibly long work week, I had a seat at my neighborhood bar. The young man sitting to my right had stars shaved into one side of his mohawk. I began comparing his hair to the style of JPL’s Flight Director Bobak Ferdowsi and how he wore it during the landing of Curiosity. This hair-do opened the floodgates and suddenly I was babbling about the Rover, Mars, the future of NASA, space exploration in the United States, blah blah… I’m sorry stranger that I sat down next to you. Mars is incredible. And Curiosity is beginning to share it all with us – more in depth than Spirit or Opportunity was ever able to do.
David Penela’s Cosmonaut series is subtly lovely. The cosmonauts, donned in their NASA Mercury-like suits, scale the red planet. Their lips are the same red as the soil, they are part of the landscape. The cosmonauts belong on the martian soil.
With the passing of Neil Armstrong this past week, I have spent much time looking through archival footage of Neil and his gang. I wanted to share with you something spectacular, something sprinkled with cosmic moon dust. The above panoramas of the moon are courtesy of USRA’s Lunar and Planetary Institute. Twelve men have walked on the moon. This is what it was like inside their space suits.Take a peek at as many Apollo Surface Panoramas that you can squeeze into your lunch break. These high-resolution images have such high quality that you can almost see your own breath steaming on the glass of your own space suit.
At 02:39 UTC on Monday July 21, 1969, Armstrong opened the hatch, and at 02:51 UTC began his descent to the lunar surface. The Remote Control Unit controls on his chest kept him from seeing his feet. Climbing down the nine-rung ladder, Armstrong pulled a D-ring to deploy the Modular Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA) folded against Eagle’s side and activate the TV camera, and at 02:56:15 UTC he set his left foot on the surface.
It is really a strong smell. It has that taste–to me, gunpowder–and the smell of gunpowder, too.
—Charlie Duke, Apollo 16 astronaut, 1972
We have seen the moon. Images have been beamed home of the moon’s landscape and of the Apollo boys dancing on top of the lunar surface. There are moon rocks to touch. What about the smells of our moon?
We Colonised the Moon‘s Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser 2012 Enter at Own Risk explores the scent of the moon. In a laboratory-like room, a single astronaut tends his garden of rocks and applies them periodically with the scent of the Moon-–a synthesized smell made from the reports of the Apollo boys. The atmosphere-less moon prevents anyone from satisfying their olfactory glands, but when the Apollo crew came back to their landing modules and removed their helmets they had a faintest whiff of our nearest astrological object-–a whiff tinted with the notes of gun powder, burnt metal, and home cooked barbecue.
Steve Pearce of Omega Ingredients has created the smell of the moon. Enter at Own Risk uses the famous iconography of early astronaut training and rehearsal where “…witnesses of this ballet of space maintenance emerge pollinated with the smell of the moon. Conveying from a designed and engineering space which is neither here nor there, the impossible sensory contamination spreads into the city beyond the gallery.”
This past week NASA has unveiled its latest prototype spacesuit, behold the Z-1 [pdf]. This is the first suit that has been developed by NASA since the creation of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit in 1992, the suit that is worn on spacewalks on the International Space Station. There’s been some buzz of how Z-1 has an uncanny visual similarity to our favorite space ranger, Buzz Lightyear. Who wouldn’t want to model a spacesuit after loyal and romantic intergalactic hero? (Side note: Buzz Lightyear is named after the 2nd man on the moon Buzz Aldrin. The MTV Music Video Moon Man is also modeled after Colonel Aldrin.)
The Z-1 prototype spacesuit is designed to brave the next stages of space exploration. That next stage is a little unclear at the moment therefore the Z-1 prototype is designed to be extremely versatile. Mary Beth Griggs of Popular Mechanics’s wonderfully breaks down the suit:
Astronauts step into the full suit through the back port. This port will mate with the spacecraft, enabling an astronaut to enter the suit from inside the craft for extravehicular activity. Another advantage: When used in low to no atmosphere, the port conserves more air than a conventional air lock.
The Z-1 has bearings at the waist, hips, upper legs, and ankles to allow an astronaut greater mobility–essential for retrieving soil and rock samples in tough terrain.
This provisional outer covering conceals a heavily engineered inner suit; a layer of urethane-coated nylon retains air, and a polyester layer allows the suit to hold its shape.
The pants of the suit look like those combination pants/shorts that tourists find convenient to wear–the ones with zippers at the knees. I almost want to throw a camera around his neck and tell him don’t forget to write. The suit is currently undergoing heavy testing at NASA Johnson Space Center and is being prepared for possible human exploration of the Moon, near earth asteroids or Mars. I’ll have Buzz Lightyear-like visions dancing in my head come Sunday as the Mars Science Laboratory Rover (commonly known as Curiosity) lands on Martian soil. Curiosity is twice as long, five times as heavy and equipped with more instrumentation than any other Rover that has been sent to the surface of Mars. It is collecting data for future manned missions to the red planet. To infinity…and beyond!
What does it take to be an Olympian? You must train every day. You must meticulously watch your consumption. You have troops of individuals coaching you for years. As an Olympian, the acceptable margin of error is so minute – milliseconds and millimeters are the measures of success or failure. Your accomplishments are glorified and you are a national hero. Such is the same with an astronaut.
When our boys were sent to the moon, they were sporting an intergalactic Varsity uniform. The footage above, put together by Kasia Cieplak von-Baldegg of Atlantic Magazine from the Special Collections & Archives of George Mason University Library, showcases various Space Suit tests for the Apollo Mission. The suit chosen for the expedition is shown on a high school football field throwing the pigskin, you can overhear the panelists say, “The Redskins could use him.”