Pressure Suits are the Height of Fashion

Dressing for Altitude. Image Credit: NASA

NASA has published a colorful, picture-filled book that details the development and use of the protective clothing worn by test pilots, astronauts and others as they soar high above Earth.

"Dressing for Altitude: U.S. Aviation Pressure Suits — Wiley Post to Space Shuttle" provides a 526-page survey of the partial- and full-pressure suits designed to keep humans alive at the edge of space since their first use during the years before World War II. Pressure suits are not the spacesuits worn by spacewalking astronauts.

The book explores the challenges the clothiers-turned-engineers faced in designing a garment that could be relatively lightweight, flexible, inflatable, and still keep an ejecting pilot safe at high altitude and in the water.

"This work is designed to provide the history of the technology and explore the lessons learned through the years of research in creating, testing, and utilizing today’s high-altitude suits," said Tony Springer of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

Dennis R. Jenkins, a writer, engineer and manager with 30 years of experience working on NASA programs, including the space shuttle, wrote the book and assembled its photographs and illustrations. Jenkins said he became interested in the topic especially after studying the work and dedication of Goodrich and David Clark Company, the two major companies responsible for most of the pressure suit‘s development through the years.

"I knew little about pressure suits going into the book, so the entire process was a learning exercise to me," Jenkins said.

To order printed copies of the coffee-table-style book from NASA’s Information Center, visit: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/hqlibrary/ic/ic2.htm

To download an e-book version of the book in PDF format at no charge, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/connect/ebooks/