Dorky Or Cool? A Scientific Analysis Of SpaceX's Starman Suit.

The slick-looking SpaceX flight suits worn by Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken last Sunday were a polarising part of the historic launch at Florida's Kennedy Space Centre. 

Judging by the launch live chatter, you belonged to one camp or the other: are the new suits cool, or weird?

Before we get into the meat and 'taters of the question, it's important to remember the suits are NOT Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs) used on spacewalks. The big, bulky fishbowl helmet looking suits.

The pumpkin suit worn by an astronaut

They're flight suits, named the 'Starman suit' by Elon Musk and their equivalent is the billowy 'pumpkin' suits as seen in the movie 'Armageddon'. 

Except, the SpaceX suits have no honky swinging hoses and garish protruding knobs.

But first...

Who Cares About Design?

Merecury space suits from the 1960s

For as long as we've romanticised space and thrusting mortal men into the deep unknown, we've fascinated over the mythology of space pioneering and looking cool while doing it. 

If you've asked the above question, this little fact might blow your mind... 

It matters.
So much so that the Starman suits were designed for aesthetics first and flight functionality second. This is what gives them a sleek design compared to the typical, clunky suits we're used to. 

And this is not a new idea...
Even the Mercury suits of the 1960s were an alien green and made to look metallic in post-production. 

Why?

Chrome suits look futuristic.
It helps add to the human experience of vicariously living through the astronauts in a high-tech, futuristic mission.

Similarly, Musk cared about viewers enjoying the suits so much he hired Jose Fernandez, the costume designer for superhero films such as "Batman vs Superman", "The Fantastic Four", "The Avengers" and "X-Men II".

It's plain to see the image Musk was going for. He wants the public to romanticise and look up to astronauts again like the space heroes of yester-decade. Mr Fernandez said the combined goal for the suits was to "look better than they did without it, like a tux".

We firmly agree the boys look better with them on, rather than naked if that's what he means.

Fernandez was not kidding with the tuxedo reference, and commented: "... what the SpaceX suits evoke most of all is James Bond's tuxedo if it were redesigned by Tony Stark as an upgrade for James T. Kirk's next big adventure."

 A truly saucy explanation, rich in nerd culture.
So that's a big tick to the question of design. 

Design score: 4/5

The SpaceX Starman suits are shrouded in mytery.

What are they made of?

To put it mildly, we don't know and we aren't sure anyone outside SpaceX does. Many have speculated what's under the cover layer, but even within the suits design team, only a handful of people have intimate knowledge of the interior. Thanks, non-disclosure agreements.

As SpaceX continues to grow, more details will undoubtedly become available. Until then, we'll continue to wonder what materials are used, how they are ventilated, how astronauts communicate and where the suits connect to the Dragon craft.

NASA has said previously that: "A single connection point on the suit's thigh attaches life support systems, including air and power connections.

Materials score: 4/5 for mystery... 

Doug Behnken gave the starman suits a five out of five

Astronaut Thoughts

Hurley said the single-piece garments are "very comfortable" during a press conference from the ISS. Behnken followed up by adding he gives the suits "... a five-star rating.

A line comment from NASA reads: "The helmet is custom manufactured using 3D printing technology and includes integrated valves, mechanisms for visor retraction and locking, and microphones within the helmet's structure."

Behnken said "Each suit is point-designed for a very specific mission. this one is point-designed for us to sit in our seats and protect us if there's a fire or some sort of problem with the atmosphere onboard Dragon - it's leaking out or has smoke in it or anything like that. And so these suits didn't have to do that job for us, which was nice, but it was clear they were ready. 

Pretty good considering they had to wear them for well over the 19-hour flight to the ISS and prelaunch formalities.

Astronaut score: literally 5/5


Australia Space Agency supporter merch

 

Psssst!
Y'know astronauts aren't the only ones with cool getups?

Grab your ARSE gear here with FREE SHIPPING on orders over $50.

 

 

The Final Verdict

Are they cool to walk down the street? No.

Are they cool compared to what we've currently seen in spacesuits? God yes.

They're cooler than the chrome mercury suits and way cooler than the pumpkin suits. This is beyond question.

They're kind of Bond, kind of Ironman, and a whole lot of SpaceX.

With a considerable 13/15, they are definitely cool.