Above, left to right:
Mark IV, B.F. Goodrich; Mark II – Model “O”, B.F. Goodrich, 1956; Mark V – Modified, B.F. Goodrich, 1968; Mark II – Model “R”, B.F. Goodrich, 1956
The spacesuits worn by the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts are among the most asked for, and asked about artifacts in the Smithsonian national collection. It is true that explorers of remote, inaccessible, and environmentally inhospitable regions of Earth (notably of the Arctic and Antarctic regions), and test pilots since the 1930s, have required specially designed clothing of various sorts. It is a testament to the extraordinary cultural significance of spaceflight, however, that spacesuits attract far more attention than the parkas, snow shoes, flight jackets, and even pressure-suits and “crash helmets” of Earth-and-air-bound explorers.
The popularity and interest in spacesuits, of course, reflects the extraordinary cultural status of spaceflight. While human spaceflight in the United States began as a direct extension of test-flying experimental, high-performance aircraft for the military, and owes much to the precedent and traditions of Arctic and Antarctic exploration, the placing of humans into orbit, and especially the act of walking about upon the surface of the moon during the 1960s and 1970s, has had direct and symbolic meaning to the American public that is hard to overestimate.
– Allan Needell, PhD National Air and Space Museum
All images and captions from “Spacesuits: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Collection” by Amanda Young and Mark Avino, published by powerHouse Books. Available from Amazon or direct from powerHouse.