These NASA employees may be lying down, but the experience isn’t perhaps as relaxing as it looks. This is how the space agency goes about testing spacesuits ahead of launch.
In a facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, staff don the suits — in this case NASA’s Modified Advanced Crew Escape Suits — to see how they stand up to the rigours of space. Sat in an 3.35m thermal vacuum chamber, the suits are connected to a life support system while the tower is evacuated of its air. With luck — and, err, some world-class engineering — they work OK.
They ought. These suits are destined for use on the new Orion spacecraft, and should enable crew to walk in space and protect them in the unfortunate event of pressure loss aboard the spacecraft. They will undergo a rigorous evaluation procedure before they’re okayed for use in space — and the test pictured above is in fact just the first in a series of four tests. [NASA]