Space Suit Hero - Spacesuits Past, Present and Future

Illustration of an astronaut

Here is a brief look back at some of the different space suits NASA astronauts have worn over the years. Can you spot the similarities and differences?

Photo Credit: NASA

This design was used for the Gemini VIII mission in 1966. It has a helmet with gold visor, a chest unit and a backpack unit.

Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin
Photo Credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin is shown here in on the surface of the Moon in July 1969, in a photograph taken by fellow astronaut Neil A. Armstrong.

Skylab spacewalk
Photo Credit: NASA

This photograph was taken in 1973 during a Skylab spacewalk.

Bruce McCandless floating free of Space Shuttle Columbia
Photo Credit: NASA

This image from 1984 shows astronaut Bruce McCandless floating free of Space Shuttle Columbia during a test of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) he helped design. The MMU is the precursor of today’s SAFER.

Testing SAFER
Photo Credit: NASA

In this September 1994 photograph, astronaut Mark C. Lee is testing the Simplified Aid for Extravehicular Activity Rescue (SAFER). As you can see, he has unclipped his tether and is floating free!

Chris Hadfield
Photo Credit: NASA

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield goes for a walk outside the International Space Station in April 2001.

Mars Suit
Photo Credit: NASA

And the future?

While today’s space suits have been designed for use in Space, a suit for use during planetary exploration — such as a Mars mission — would need different features.

With Mars in mind, NASA has been working on designs that are lighter and more flexible, allowing an astronaut to bend at the waist, for example, to collect surface samples. A helmet bubble allowing a wider field of vision is also on the wish list.