When you get up and go to work in the morning, you might have a look at the weather and work out what you will wear to keep you comfortable. You might want waterproofs, or you might need a sunhat for example.
For astronauts, this is something that needed a lot of research and cost a lot of money as for them, they were being exposed to the most harsh environment possible – the vacuum of space! Even the most extreme environments on Earth do not compare to the temperatures and conditions that are found in space, so they would need something extraordinary in order to not only survive space, but to be able to work in it.
To give you an idea of the extreme conditions that the suit designers and the astronauts were up against, these are just some of the problems that you would encounter in space without a space suit…
Lack of Oxygen – First of all, there is no atmosphere, so therefore no oxygen to breathe. A space suit needs to provide breathable air.
Radiation – The Earth protects us from much of the cosmic radiation found in space – the Van Allen belt circles the Earth and captures particles which come from the sun. However, in space this is not going to be there, so the suit will need to offer protection.
Lack of Air Pressure – Because there is no air pressure in space, the blood would boil within seconds, so pressurising the suit is essential.
Temperature Extremes – If we think we can have some cold and hot weather on earth, that is nothing compared to temperatures in space! A space suit needs to be able to keep the astronaut at a comfortable temperature, whilst protecting them from the extremes of both hot and cold of the environment.
In order to design the first spacesuits, scientists had to consider all of this in order to create a sort of mobile spaceship in its own right for the astronaut to wear whilst they were on a spacewalk or on the moon.
Rubber moulding like this www.meadex.co.uk/rubber-moulding/ could be used to ensure that suits were sealed accurately and correctly, and materials like neoprene formed a protective shield, as well as layers of materials like Teflon.