Friday, November 15th, 2013

Litton RX hard suitThere’s been a lot of publicity lately for a book I just finished reading, “Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo,” and all of it has been along the lines of “From Bras to Space Suits,” or some such nonsense.

It’s a much more fascinating book than all the hype makes it out to be, not least because it brings to light the “hard suits” that were designed to compete with the “soft suit” that was eventually selected by NASA. If there had been just a skosh more room inside the spacecraft, we might have seen Neil Armstrong step out of the lunar lander in a suit that looked like something straight out of The Forever War, or Starship Troopers, Gundam or whatever battle armor-story is most relevant to your generation.

Not that the A7L pressure suit, the one that the moon walkers ended up wearing, wasn’t totally badass in its own right. It had a way of making every one of the astronauts who wore it look like a helmeted gorilla whose superpower was being able to fly spaceships. Now that I think of it, wouldn’t that be pretty awesome?

But the hard suits had it all over the soft suits as far as looks go. The AX-3 was probably the best-looking of all of them, but if I were going to film a cinematic version of Starship Troopers, I’m afraid I might not be able to resist the retro look of the Litton RX-2 hard suit. It was designed to be practical, not photogenic, and yet it managed to be both.

At the Smithsonian:
Ames Research AX-2, 1966/67
AiResearch EX-1A
Litton RX-2A
Litton RX-3, 1966
Litton RX-4, 1967
Litton B-1A

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