Spacewalking has captured the imagination of generations of children and adults since science-fiction authors first placed their characters on the Moon. But true spacewalking did not actually begin until the mid-1960s with the exploits of Alexei A. Leonov of the Soviet Union and Edward H. White II of the United States. Since those first tentative probings outside a space capsule, astronauts and cosmonauts have logged thousands of hours on extravehicular activities, and some have even walked on the surface of the Moon. The stories of their missions in space are fascinating, but just as interesting is the spacesuit technology that made it possible for them to "walk" in space.
Today, spacesuits are used by astronauts on many missions such as servicing the Hubble Space Telescope and retrieving satellites. The new International Space Station will depend upon astronauts and cosmonauts to conduct over 1,200 hours of spacewalks over the next several years to assemble and maintain Space Station components. Although no firm plans exist, NASA hopes to return to the Moon to establish a permanent base and later begin human surface exploration of Mars. Each of these ventures places distinct demands on spacesuits systems and the tools astronauts use.
This publication serves as a guide for technology education teachers. While not specifically aimed at other subject areas, teachers of physical science and mathematics will find the Exploration Briefs and the Idea Bank useful as a source of activity ideas.
The guide begins with brief discussions of the space environment, the history of spacewalking, NASA's current spacesuit, and work that astronauts do during spacewalks. These are followed by a technology education design brief that challenges students to design and build a spacesuit prototype for an extraterrestrial environment no human has ever visited before. In the process of doing this, students will have to investigate the properties of that environment and determine what protective measures must be taken to permit a future explorer to work there safely. Once accomplished, students will choose materials and technologies that can be used for constructing and testing the prototype. The design brief is followed by Teacher Tech Briefs that provide a source of ideas on how to build spacesuit test apparatus and by Exploration Briefs that provide activity frameworks to help students understand important topics in spacesuit design.
The guide concludes with a glossary of terms, suggested reading list, NASA educational resources including electronic resources, and an evaluation questionaire. We would appreciate your assistance in improving this guide in future editions by completing the feedback questionnaire electronically or mailing the form to us.
This activity guide makes use of the metric system for measurement. However,
British units for measurement may be listed in materials and tools lists
when particular items are more easily found in British measurement sizes.
The pascal or metric unit for pressure may be unfamiliar to readers. A
pascal is equal to a force of one newton exerted over an area of one square
meter. Because the pascal is a relatively small unit, the more convenient
unit of kilopascal (1,000 pascals) is used here instead. To convert kilopascals
to the British-system unit of pounds per square inch, divide by 6.895.