A decade before Neil Armstrong ever took that first small step on the moon in 1969, NASA engineer Allyn B. Hazard was already thinking about manned missions to the moon in a very big way by designing one of the first ever spacesuits.
Here he is in the spacesuit, which looks like it would be incredibly difficult to manoeuvre.
And for comparison, here’s the Apollo suit Armstrong took the moon (notice there are no antennae on Neil’s head cap):
At the time he invented the suit, Hazard was a senior development engineer in the Missile Engineering Section of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. The suit was never an official project by NASA, and considering the bulky design, Armstrong and other astronauts are probably thankful for it.
The project was more just big thinking on Hazard’s part and his imagination and innovation certainly garnered some attention. For example, Hazard and his suit were featured on the cover of Life Magazine on April 27, 1962.
There’s limited documentation of the suit, so no one really knows how many models Hazard made, the exact materials he used, and whether the suit could have kept an astronaut on the moon alive or not. Even the numbers on the front of the suit are a mystery, although they likely indicate the version of the suit.
It appears that most of the suits controls were located directly in front of the person’s face, as shown in a two-page spread feature in the Aerojet General Corporation’s in-house publication, a company that Hazard eventually left JPL to join.
Despite NASA’s apparent disinterest in the design, a class of students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) led by professor John Lyman studied the suit. Their research even made it in the Post-Standard Sunday magazine for pinpointing six problems the suit had to solve before it was ready for space. (It’s unknown is Hazard ever fixed the issues.)
Here are the six problems quoted directly from the magazine issue:
- Breathing: No air on the moon, so the suit must pack oxygen for at least 10 days.
- Hot-cold: The moon switches from a boiling 215 degrees F. in the daytime to 250 below at night. Suit must be power-heated and cooled, heavily insulated.
- Radiation: A phenomenon called “solar flair” intermittently showers the moon with very intense radiation. Suit must completely shield wearer.
- Vacuum effect: Suit must prevent fatal loss of moisture due to moon’s near-vacuum atmosphere.
- Mobility: Moon’s surface is thought to be covered with dust that may be 20 feet thick in places. Also, the atmospheric pressure inside the suit and absence of pressure outside will cause moon man’s arms to fly up like Jimmy Durante’s and stick there.
- Chow: Moon man must carry rations inside suit.
The suit was clearly flawed, but that didn’t stop toy company Mattel from creating a toy version of Hazard in his spacesuit. The toy is called Major Matt Mason and you can buy him for just $US799 on eBay.
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