Gordon Cooper, one of the original seven Mercury astronauts in 1959, is seen here in an early generation space suit -- a crude, tin foil-like converted US Navy high-altitude jet aircraft pressure suit, with an outer layer of aluminized nylon.
Space suits have gone through regular upgrades and innovations through the years, adding features built with new materials to give astronauts the protection and comfort they need during launch and re-entry, performing spacewalks at the International Space Station, or walking on the moon.
When the first shuttle flight, STS-1, lifted off on April 12, 1981, astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen wore the ejection escape suit modeled here. It's a modified version of a US Air Force high-altitude pressure suit.
Astronaut Edward Fincke, Expedition 9 NASA ISS science officer and flight engineer, wearing a Russian Orlan space suit, participates in the third of four sessions of extravehicular activities (EVA) performed by the Expedition 9 crew during their six-month mission.
This Z-1 is a new space suit prototype, seen here in an image released late last year, which might be put into use as early as 2015. Z-1 is the first prototype in the next-generation design, a versatile suit which reinvents the ways astronauts experience space that is being developed under NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems' suit project.
The MX-2 is a forward-looking ongoing research project, constantly evolving and improving. Many research papers have been published about the MX-2, including at the International Conference on Environmental Systems (ICES), the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) and at AIAA conferences. These papers highlight the use of the MX-2 as a tool to investigate advanced space suit technologies and to research human-robotic interaction. Many of these papers can be found here.
Caption byJames Martin / Photo by University of Maryland's Space Systems Laboratory
Bio-Suit is a "second skin" futuristic space activity suit designed to facilitate movement that's under development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Bio-Suit is custom fit to each wearer, using laser body scanning, and incorporates wearable technologies, with hardware and software suited to each mission.
Caption byJames Martin / Photo by Photo Credit: Professor Dava Newman: Inventor, Science Engineering; Guillermo Trotti, A.I.A., Trotti and Associates, Inc. (Cambridge, MA): Design; Dainese (Vincenca, Italy): Fabrication; Douglas Sonders: Photography