Monday, 30 June 2008

Space suits.

Apollo space suits have always held a particular fascination for me. Manned spacecraft of the smallest possible dimensions, the boots left mankind's mark on the lunar surface: a mark that will remain for millions of years.

In October of 1967 ILC Dover developed this prototype or Mk II over-boot.

The final Mk III design  in the year that followed differed slightly in appearance, but significantly retained the same boot tread. This sole came from the same mold as that used on Neil Armstrong's boots.

Complete with inner pressure glove and wrist connect, this unflown Apollo A7L EVA glove is a stunning artifact. Such a glove in private ownership is not unique.

What does make this glove special however is that it was worn by 
Jim Irwin AFTER he had walked on the moon in July/August 1971
as Apollo 15 Lunar Module Pilot.

Apollo 15 Lunar Module Pilot stands besides his spacecraft "Falcon" 
and salutes his nation in The Hadley Apennines region of the moon.
 July 1971.

More suit pieces

The communications switch or "Cobra Head" was a hand switch used extensively throughout the Apollo program and figures in a number of iconic in-flight Apollo photographs. This particular switch dates to the late Apollo/Skylab era but I have not been able to ascertain whether it was flown in space.

The communications carrier, affectionately known as a "Snoopy Cap" is from the early 80's shuttle program. While the electronics in the headset may have changed in the intervening years the soft carrier itself is almost identical to its illustrious Apollo counterpart.

Identical equipment can be seen in this photograph of Apollo 17 Commander Gene Cernan and Command Module Pilot Ron Evans, taken while on their return from the moon in December 1972.

Further acquisitions included an A7L IVA glove, minus it's thermal micrometeroid layer.

An identical glove undergoes quality control inspection at the ILC Dover facility in Delaware.

The "bubble helmet" from the Apollo pressure suit is instantly recognizable. Manufactured by Air-Lock Inc. of Milford, Connecticut the helmet is made from "Lexan"- a strong polycarbonate plastic that combines excellent visibility with incredible strength and durability.

The design and manufacturing process may be 50 years old but it proved so successful that the same bubble helmets are being used today in the manufacture of the EVA - pressure suits currently flown aboard the International Space Station.

This cut away painting by renowned artist Paul Calle illustrates beautifully some of the pressure suit artifacts shown here. The Apollo A7L suit was a marvel of engineering that continues to influence space suit technology to this day. It amounted to a manned spacecraft of the smallest possible dimensions.

 An A6L wrist disconnect in to which the Apollo pressure suit glove would be secured. It's a beautiful example of the precision engineering that typified the Apollo program.
Apollo space suit oxygen connector and diverter valve. This connector predates the Apollo 1 fire of January 1967. Following the fire, the white nylon release lugs were changed to brass. 

Gas and water connectors are amongst the most recognizable features on the Apollo EVA suit. Alan Shepard's Apollo 14 suit, worn on the lunar surface bears testimony to that.

This Thermal Micro-meteoroid Garment (TMG) layer of the  shuttle Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) glove dates 1980. With palms made from Kevlar and latex fingers tips developed for the Apollo moon suit it was designed with the maxim "stop a bullet but pick up a dime"... in mind.

 The second glove is some 15 years later in design. Flexibility and touch has been improved by replacing the Kevlar with latex across the palm and fingers. The pull switch on the cuff operates heating elements in the fingers to combat severe cold experienced by astronauts when in shadow for prolonged periods.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Lucite displays.

I particularly like the Apollo recovery acrylics as they were made to my own design by my good friend Jerry Czubinski, using Kapton swatches with an impeccable provenance.

Mixed bits and pieces.

Following the Mercury and Gemini programs NASA wanted to promote a greater awareness among employees and contractors of their personal role in flight safety, the crews and their missions. To that end NASA adopted the Schulz cartoon characters "Snoopy" and "Charlie Brown" as mascots. They featured on a variety of in house posters and in 1968 spawned the Silver Snoopy award for workers who had excelled.

 On the flight of Apollo 10, the crews adopted the call signs "Charlie Brown" and "Snoopy" for the Command and Lunar Modules respectively. In April 2015, retired General Tom Stafford kindly signed this United Features Syndicate Snoopy doll adding.... "That's my favourite kind of dog!"

A cross section of Shuttle External Tank foam insulation and a sample of Apollo Command Module heatshield material from The Avco Corp.

A limted edition exact replica of the commemorative plaque left on the lunar surface by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, July 1969.

The Lunar Communications Relay Unit or LCRU included  a tv camera and was carried on the Lunar Rovers for Apollo's 15, 16 and 17. This system afforded high quality colour tv images for the duration of each EVA and even captured the launch of each the ascent stages.

This unflown mylar blanked was sent to me by RCA Corp in 1974 and includes the velcro tab used to secure the lens sunshade.

Gene Cernan. The last man to drive on the moon and the last to use the Lunar Communications Relay Unit (LCRU) while on the lunar surface: Apollo 17, December, 1972

Food for thought.

I had an opportunity to purchase this Apollo Water Dispenser some 10 years ago from ebay. But a moments delay meant I lost out to a fellow UK collector. I finally became acquainted with this beautifully machined artifact in the summer of 2012. This type of water dispenser was used on Apollo 7, 8 and 9 before being replaced with a smaller lighter model for Apollo 10 and all subsequent Apollo missions.

The accompanying photo depicts Johnson Space Center food technologist Rita Rapp holding such a water dispenser. Rita played a pivotal roll in the development of food sciences during the Apollo era .

An Apollo food press package with a limited distribution that was gifted to selected media covering the first lunar landing.

A representative collection of food packages from the pioneering Mercury food cubes through to the latest shuttle and International Space Station beverage package.

I have been fortunate over the years to work closely with the Space Lectures team.  A group of space nerds intent on bringing inspirational astronaut speakers to the UK. That has afforded me an opportunity to get some interesting pieces signed including these unflown shuttle and ISS food packages.

Scott Kelly is not at all keen on the Lemon Curd cake. From all accounts it is pretty disgusting.

Soviet manned spaceflight artifacts

This intriguing half scale Sokol KV-2 pressure suit is one of a very small number manufactured by Zvezda: the official pressure suit manufacturer.

Made of the same materials as their larger counterparts many of the components are functional: the visor opens and closes, the pressure valve operates and the gloves can be removed. The suit is supported by an articulated armature that allows the piece to displayed in different positions. While full scale Sokol KV-2 suits are relatively commonplace the half scale replicas are few and far between.

In the last decade, three have appeared at auction. At least two auction houses suggested that these were given to cosmonauts in lieu of their flown suits. In reality, the "mini Sokols" (made in 1988/9) were gifted to senior Zvezda employees .... though one was allegedly made as a special order for a western collector and sold for $12,000. Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka confirmed that they have been
used at Soviet space expositions as photo opportunity props for children.

But as the image taken in 1988 of the very first "mini Sokol" shows the exquisite detail even included the black mesh communications headset and grey leather over boots.

A pair of full sized Sokol KV-2 pressure gloves worn by cosmonaut Nikolai Budarin. It is quite possible that these gloves may have been worn in space, but with the redacted serial numbers it is impossible to know for certain.

 A classic Sokol communications carrier or headset used in training.

A pair of Soviet "Orlan" EVA gloves of the type currently used aboard the International Space Station.

When I met cosmonaut Alexei Leonov in 2010 I thought it only right and fitting that he - the first man to walk in space -should sign the gloves.

This signed beta cloth patch, from the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission of 1975, was not flown in space but does has the distinction of coming from the personal collection of participant cosmonaut Valery Kubasov.

I bought it from Valery when he attended an Autographica event in October 2005.