Here’s What Happens When Costume Design Meets Space Suit Technology [Insights]

Here’s What Happens When Costume Design Meets Space Suit Technology [Insights]


– So, my background is really in
the costume world. I’ve transitioned into space
suits, and I kind of got hooked. We see a larger number of people
flying, and that means different sizes
of individuals, and needing to be able to
accommodate that quickly and
efficiently. People are generally surprised
that we have a space suit shop
in Brooklyn. Our work space is kind of [a]
cross between a metal shop, and a sewing room, and a test
lab, all at the same time. And there’s also a bit of
museum, and there’s a lot of… the inevitable patch collection that happens when you work in
the space industry. There’s really only two other
companies in the United States
that make space suits. A lot of people kind of think of
them as magical entities, but when it comes down to it,
we’re really focused on garment
making. The waist is going to be the big
question, huh? While I was working in the
costume industry, generally people would hand me a
sketch and I would build
something in three dimensions. Every day was a different
challenge. In 2009, my now-business partner
Nick and I won the NASA astronaut glove competition. I learned quite a bit about
the specifics of space suits and slowly transitioned out of the
costume world and became more interested in
engineering and aerospace. Space is probably the most
extreme environment that we can
imagine. There is no perfect space suit. That challenge really provides a
lot of room for solutions. Something we came up with a
couple of years ago is the Space
Suit Experience. The idea here is to allow
anybody who’s interested to come
and try real space hardware. – Pick up the arm. It’s unique in the United
States; there’s no place else that you
can pay to try on a space suit. You could stand with this in the
background. That background in costuming
allows, I think, me to
understand what’s possible, and also to understand what will
work on the body and how the
body moves and works. That’s really one of the most
interesting parts about the
suit, is on one hand, you’re
protecting against one of the
most extreme environments there
is: space… – OK, so, you’re in. – This is a little scary – It’s a little scary? … And on the other hand, you
want it to move with the body, you want it to be sizeable, you
want it to be perfectly, you
know, mobile without restriction, and
it’s really this design paradox that we find in space suits that
I think drives a lot of garment
technology. – And you’re just coming down.
Down you go. The suit has 13 individual
sizing points to allow us to accommodate different vertical
ranges of people. – But you’ll definitely feel the
pressure change, so go slowly. Breathe normally — don’t hold
your breath. For the person taking part in
the Space Suit Experience, it’s exciting for them. But it’s also really useful for
us, because the more we can use the
suit on the ground, the more we can understand what
works and what doesn’t work. There’ve only been about 500
people that have gone to space
in the 60 years that we’ve been flying humans to
orbit. The more people fly to space, the more opportunity there will
be for a company like ours.

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