Over at TXCHNOLOGIST is a great interview with Nicholas de Monchaux, author of Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo. This book has been my summer reading material and it is a fascinating look into the science, engineering and politics behind not just the Spacesuit but the whole space race.
The interview focuses on the seamstresses involved in the making of the spacesuits and tries to poke a bit at the politics of how a girdle company ended up making the part of the space program that allowed man to walk on the surface of the moon.
The book itself isn’t just about the creation of the Spacesuit. It is also a story of how the Space Program was more than just a scientific trip to our giant orbiting satellite; it was one of the grandest public relation stunts ever funded. The Apollo Program is one of the most enduring Monuments to American innovation and can-do attitude. It was designed that way: from the effort to have every moment photographed, filmed and recorded, to unnecessarily spray painting the first space suits silver.
The book is divided into 21 chapters, or layers, equaling the number of layers in the Space Suit. It follows several tracts: The imagery of aeronautical advancement, Trends in Design and Fashion, Engineering issues, Political issues and Bureaucratic challenges of the race. Often it looks at how these seemingly separate issues move together in time.
Over all its a good read, sometimes a little dry but well worth the time. Inside you’ll learn:
- that they once considered physically modifying the astronaut as a solution to space travel. This birthed the term ‘cyborg’.
- the space suits for the mercury program were standard flight suits painted silver to look more futuristic.
- the space suits were sewn on machines modified to do just one stitch when the treadle was depressed.
- The first Americans in space were delivered by the same missiles that were being produced to deliver nuclear warheads.
- The first flight simulator was designed by a builder of player pianos in 1929.
- Women were found to be physically more suited to space flight but were kept out of the program due to the ‘sensitive nature’ of the missiles being used.
- and much much more…
So there’s some light reading for the rest of your summer. You can thank me later.
I got this book for my birthday but haven’t started reading it yet. I appreciate the reminder.
To my credit, I did know that Playtex made the space suits :).
I’m adding this to my “to-read” list – thanks for the head’s up!