3-D spacesuits: The evolution from Mercury and Apollo 11 to Space X

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Companies in the Cosmos

How to dress for space

Explore five iconic spacesuits in 3-D and more than 50 years of spaceflight in a dialogue between The Washington Post's space industry reporter and fashion critic .
Coated with moon dust
Worn by Neil Armstrong in 1969 when he walked on the moon
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The Apollo suits worn by the astronauts on the lunar surface were “essentially a spacecraft that is human form and human fitted,” said Cathleen Lewis, a curator in the Space History Department of the National Air and Space Museum. The suits were designed to keep astronauts alive outside their spacecraft. Custom made for each astronaut, the suits were based on 47 measurements and tested repeatedly. What you see here is “probably the closest thing of a body print of Neil Armstrong,” Lewis said.


For Apollo, NASA needed a more robust helmet than the kinds used during the Mercury and Gemini missions, one that allowed the astronauts to see their feet. This is important “especially if you’re walking on strange new territory,” Lewis said.


The metallic gold visors could be pulled down. Lewis called them “oversized ski goggles.”


You can’t really see their face, their name is so small, they were not even trying to turn the astronauts into personalities. Which would be so natural now, just as a way of ginning up interest and getting people excited, by having a personal connection.


Unlike mission patches for other flights, the Apollo 11 patch did not have the names of the crew members. Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins felt their names should be left out because the flight represented all of humankind and the 400,000 people involved in the Apollo program.

Augmented reality: How bulky was the Apollo suit in real life? Tap the picture below to place the space suit in front of you.

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Tubes connected to the suits through these nozzles served as connections to life support systems and communication and electrical systems, as well as water to help moderate body temperature.


Armstrong left his backpack on the moon in order to ensure that the ascent module was well below its weight limit, Lewis said. The pack contained the astronaut’s life support system, which provided a supply of oxygen while also taking carbon dioxide away.


I love that there was so much attention paid to the idea that we are doing this for peace, for exploration and for scientific discovery. Despite how big and potentially intimidating this suit could be, it is not, it looks like a happy uniform. And the patches are so Boy Scout.


Moon dust is still visible on the legs and boots.

You have seen 0 of 5 suits.
Check out this one next:
Mercury: A shining silver vision of the future
Apollo 11: The suit that went to the moon
Advanced Crew Escape Suit: A suit focused on safety over style
Boeing: You can take it for a run
SpaceX: A sleek, futuristic approach to space travel

About this story

To re-create the spacesuits in 3-D, The Post took 2,500 photos of the original suits and stitched them together through a process called photogrammetry. This involves using an algorithm to analyze the images and find common points to build a 3-D model.

The helmets were modeled manually from reference images, not through photogrammetry.

Additional production by William Neff, Armand Emamdjomeh and Seth Blanchard. Rocket icon by iStock.

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