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.”