Suited for Space
Above, a photograph of the prototype Mark V space suit, which was designed in the early 1960s to help astronauts achieve a fuller range of motion while performing delicate tasks in the vacuum of space.
This photograph, one of several on display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., helps paint a fuller portrait of what astronauts wore to survive entry and spacewalks.
The photographs are part of a larger exhibit called "Suited for Space," which traces the evolution of space suits over the past 60 years through photos, x-rays, and artifacts. (Related: "Photos: Space Suit Evolution Since First NASA Flight.")
Cathleen Lewis, a historian and curator of international space programs at the museum, explained that the asymmetrical shoulders on the Mark V space suit were designed as a test.
"The right arm is the traditional shoulder design," she said. "But on the left arm, you can see bellows, which would allow the astronauts to localize air displacement and restrain the pressurization of outer space."
In other words, if an astronaut lifted his or her arm in space without these specialized joints, the arm of the suit would balloon up—making it impossible to do work.
The traveling exhibit will remain in Washington, D.C., through December 1, when it will continue to stops in Tampa, Philadelphia, and Seattle.
Behind the Fashion: What Astronauts Wore in Space
Over the years, space suits have become much more complex. A new Smithsonian traveling exhibit highlights several advances.