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Moon shots: the far-out space suits of past, present, and future

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Space suits have come a long way since they were first used to protect pilots venturing just outside the earth, but they still have quite a ways to go. For decades now, the American and Russian space programs have been improving astronauts' suits little by little, making them safer, more maneuverable, and better equipped for emergencies.

But they're still far from perfect: no suit is truly easy to put on or move around in, and that's something that space agencies and private institutions will have to contend with if they really want to give astronauts the chance to explore the moon or Mars. From some of the first suits to an almost science-fiction dream of the future, here's where the space suit started and where some of the most incredible experiments show that they’re going.

All images credit NASA unless otherwise noted. Above: OEWF / Zanella Kux.

Far-out space suit image gallery


Mercury suit
The first outfits ever worn into space were high-altitude pressure suits that had been repurposed for more daring missions. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin took the first flight wearing the SK-1 suit in April 1961, followed by American astronaut Alan Shepard less than a month later. Shepard's outfit (above, worn by astronaut Gordon Cooper) was based off a Navy suit called the Mark IV, and was designed for both wearer comfort and to serve as a backup oxygen source. On later missions, floatation devices were added in case a wearer had to make a water landing.