Why Astronauts Do Not Wear Tight-Fitting Spacesuits Like In Films


Many people have probably noticed that astronauts do not wear tight-fitting spacesuits like in science-fiction films.

Normally, films show us spacesuits that fit an astronaut’s body quite tightly. However, in reality, space suits are quite “puffy” and much bulkier.

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Why do astronauts not seen in tight-fitting spacesuits like in movies? Let us get to know.

tight spacesuits
Tight spacesuits concept

The main purpose of the spacesuit is to maintain the life of the astronaut in a vacuum of space and extreme temperatures. Moviemakers do not have to worry about the life of actors, their purpose is to look good in the frame and emphasize the figures.

In addition, tight-fitting spacesuits in films allow actors to make sharp movements, fight, run, jump, perform various acrobatic stunts, etc. All this is impossible in real modern spacesuits.

When a person is on the surface of the Earth, he/she experiences the pressure of a huge thickness of the atmosphere. However, we do not feel any discomfort because of this, since the internal pressure of the human body is equal to atmospheric. Therefore, the human body is not like a vacuum. Indeed, in the absence of atmospheric pressure, the internal pressure does not disappear. A prolonged (more than 60-90 seconds) stay in a vacuum is almost inevitably fatal.

Pressure Suit, AX-5
Pressure Suit, AX-5

To protect the astronauts from the vacuum and create comfortable conditions for them, the spacesuits are made quite spacious inside and pumped in the air under atmospheric pressure. Inside such spacesuits, astronauts are reliably protected from the vacuum of space.

Nevertheless, the mobility of astronauts in such bulky spacesuits is extremely limited. One of the main problems in the design of such spacesuits is the design of articular joints. They should be designed in such a way that when the joints are bent and unbent, the internal volume of the spacesuit remains unchanged, otherwise, it can lead to non-fatal, but still not very pleasant for the astronaut, pressure drops. Such articular joints further limit the mobility of astronauts in a spacesuit.

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But nevertheless, in modern suits, people can perform various complex tasks. Of the most complex tasks, for example, is the construction of the ISS or the repair of the Hubble telescope.

Can an astronaut use tight-fitting spacesuits like in films?

In theory, the development of such spacesuits has been going on since the 1950s. Their advantages include the much greater mobility that such a spacesuit can provide.

 tight-fitting space suit
One of the first prototypes of a tight-fitting space suit, 1959.

The idea of such a spacesuit is that instead of compensating for the body’s internal pressure with the air pressure inside the spacesuit, it is compensated by the pressure of the spacesuit’s material on the body. This suit does not just fit snugly against the skin but presses it over the entire surface. The only part of the suit where the air is used to compensate for the pressure is the helmet.

At the moment, the work to create tight-fitting spacesuits is still far from its finish. The main problems are ensuring constant and uniform pressure over the entire surface of the body, including the groin area, toes, etc., as well as any changes in body position, touching various surfaces and working with tools.

MIT BioSuit Suit
MIT BioSuit Suit

As it turned out, this is not something easy to achieve – the pressure drops in individual parts of the spacesuit can lead to the fact that at the end of work in tight-fitting spacesuits, the astronaut will get a lot of bruises.

Bright blue fitting Boeing suit
Bright blue fitting Boeing suit

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Another problem is thermoregulation. Our body is a source of heat. Under atmospheric conditions, thermoregulation is achieved by the release of sweat which, when evaporated from the surface of the body, lowers its temperature. A tight-fitting spacesuit will require a fundamentally excellent heat dissipation system.

Mars suit
Mars suit: spacesuit to fly Mars

Currently, several companies and organizations (NASA, MIT, Boeing) are conducting work on creating a tight-fitting spacesuit, but so far, not a single tight-fitting suit meets all the requirements.

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