Wonderful Engineering

These Features Of A Spacesuit Are Common With The Iron Man Suit

Credits: YouTube

You might have thought that spacesuit was just what astronauts prefer to wear, because their fashion idol is the Michelin man. Then you might be surprised to know that a spacesuit can easily be called “a small spacecraft”, especially by NASA. Did you think that it only provides for the astronaut to breath in the vacuum? Then you may also not know that astronauts have to wear diapers as well as many other things. Yes! That has made me change my mind to be a tin-foiled astronaut this Halloween. These spacesuits have a lot in common with our favorite Iron-Man suit. Let us see!

Credits: Cosmos Magazine

A spacesuit is a necessity for astronauts for more than one reason as it has a lot of features that helps the astronaut to survive the inhospitable environment in space. The most important feature is the provision of oxygen, along with others, such as a spacesuit holds drinkable water, protects against getting too cold, or too hot. Iron-Man, however, is free from these needs. The spacesuit is practically bulletproof, not meant to protect against alien cavalry, but against the space dust. If the astronauts are not allergic, space dust sounds harmless, no? What makes the space dust not so harmless is the fact that it travels faster than a bullet, hence spacesuit is practically bulletproof.

Credits: Wikipedia

The fish bowl helmet or the visors of the suit are gold-plated to imitate the gold plated sunglasses. No, it is not because they want aliens to see how rich they are, but to protect their eyes from bright sunlight. Underneath the helmet, communication equipment helps the astronaut to talk with crew members during spacewalks. No Pepper Pots’ Facetime though.

The helmet has a Vent Pad to directs oxygen from the Primary Life Support Subsystem and Hard Upper Torso to the front of the helmet. 
A TV camera and lights can be attached to the helmet.
Credits: NASA
The Communications Carrier Assembly CCA is sometimes called the Snoopy Cap connects to the radio on the spacesuit. Credits: NASA

The suit itself is made of different layers of materials, each serving a different purpose. Under the suit, a layer of clothing covers the entire astronaut body minus head, hands, and feet. This layer of clothing has tubes sewn into it; the tubes carry water to keep the body cool. Beat that, Iron-Man!

Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment keeps spacewalkers cool, made of stretchy spandex material, it has 91.5 meters, or 300 feet, of narrow tubes throughout. The vents in the garment draw sweat away from the astronaut’s body. Sweat is recycled in the water-cooling system. Oxygen is pulled in at the wrists and ankles to help with circulation within the spacesuit.Credits: NASA

The backpack that astronauts carry holds the oxygen for breathing and helps to remove carbon dioxide. The drinkable water tank is also there in it. It has an electricity supply as well to run fans which move oxygen through the suit. Iron-man, being the superhero, doesn’t need any of these things at all.

The Primary Life Support Subsystem PLSS, the backpack provides astronauts tanks of oxygen for breathing and removes exhaled carbon dioxide. It contains a battery for electrical power, also holds water-cooling equipment, a fan to circulate oxygen and a two-way radio. A caution and warning system in this backpack lets spacewalkers know if something is wrong with the suit. Credits: NASA

If you are a fan of the Iron-Man suit, you are gonna love this. The back of the spacesuit has numerous small thrust jets called SAFER. The Safer is used if an astronaut drifts away from space station into space as it helps them to fly back.

SAFER is like a life jacket. Astronauts are usually connected to the station by a tether. If an astronaut should become untethered and float away, SAFER would help her or him fly back to the station. SAFER is worn like a backpack. It uses small nitrogen-jet thrusters to let an astronaut move around in space. Astronauts can control SAFER with a small joystick. Credits: NASA

Every mission has these ‘basic suits’ upgraded uniquely for the environment of the destination, such as some missions use the hose connected to the spacesuit allowing the astronaut very limited room to work, while others do not. The boots of the suit are custom made to cater for the gravity and surface of each destination distinctly. Much like “Iron-man Armour” vs the “War Machine.”

Here are some of the spacesuit parts and their functionality, as described by NASA.

Hard Upper Torso The HUT covers the chest and back. It is a vest made out of fiberglass like some cars and swimming pools. The Displays and Control Module and Primary Life Support Subsystem attach to this piece. An important function of this piece is that it serves as the connection for the tubes that drain water and allow oxygen flow. Credits: NASA
Spacewalkers do not wear custom-made suits. Different sizes of arm assembly parts are available. Sizing rings can make the parts longer or shorter. Astronauts must be able to work with and pick up objects while wearing spacesuit gloves. EVA gloves are made to protect astronauts and so that spacewalkers can move their fingers as easily as possible. The fingers are the part of the body that gets coldest in space. These gloves have heaters in the fingertips.
 Credits: NASA
Displays and Control Module is the control panel for the mini-spacecraft. Switches, controls, gauges and an electronic display are on the module. The astronaut can operate the Primary Life Support Subsystem from this module. Credits: NASA
Lower Torso Assembly is made up of spacesuit pants, boots and the lower half of the waist closure. A piece called the waist bearing helps the astronaut move and turn. A metal body-seal closure connects the lower torso to the hard upper torso. The lower torso has D-rings to attach tethers. Tethers are the cords that attach to the spacecraft, so spacewalkers will not float away.
Some suits are plain white; some have red stripes, and others have candy cane stripes. These variations help to tell one spacewalker from another. Credits: NASA
Wrist Mirror
A spacewalker cannot see the front of the Displays and Control Module while wearing the spacesuit. To see the controls, astronauts wear a wrist mirror on the sleeve. Look at the settings on the front of the module. They are written backward. But “backward” is “forward” in a mirror.
Credits: NASA

The spacesuit arm has 14 layers of material to protect the spacewalker. The liquid cooling and ventilation garment makes up the first three layers. On top of this garment is the bladder layer. It creates the proper pressure for the body. It also holds in the oxygen for breathing. The next layer holds the bladder layer to the correct shape around the astronaut’s body and is made of the same material as camping tents. The ripstop liner is the tear-resistant layer. The next seven layers are Mylar insulation and make the suit act like a thermos. The layers keep the temperature from changing inside. They also protect the spacewalker from being harmed by small, high-speed objects flying through space. The outer layer is made of a blend of three fabrics. One fabric is waterproof. Another is the material used to make bullet-proof vests. The third fabric is fire-resistant. Credits: How Products Are Made