Published May 29, 2019
The Space Shuttle Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU)
represents the most advanced system used in spacewalking.(U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
The Space Shuttle’s robotic arm served as a work platform for astronauts.(Contributed photo)
The Space Shuttle EMU was a modular system with separate upper and lower body components. Here, USAF astronaut Col. Catherine “Cady” Coleman prepares for EMU training.(Contributed photo)
The Space Shuttle Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) represents the most advanced system used in spacewalking. Variations of this design have been used since 1981 in the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs. Over the years it has undergone many incremental improvements.
The Shuttle EMU was a modular system made to fit any astronaut. It featured a rigid, one-size-fits-all upper torso as the heart of the suit, with arms and legs in several sizes to fit large or small crew members. The lower half of the suit mated to the upper half. Unlike Apollo suits, the Shuttle EMU could be reconfigured for different people and wasn’t custom-built for a single individual.
The Shuttle EMU allowed astronauts to work for about seven hours, either tethered to the spacecraft or attached to the Shuttle’s robotic arm. Typical work included repairing satellites or attaching space station modules. Astronauts even used the EMU to test a Manned Maneuvering Unit that flew independently of the Shuttle. The basic EMU was used on Space Shuttle flights from 1981–2002, with an improved version developed for International Space Station and Shuttle use in 1998 and beyond.
The Shuttle EMU had a TV camera and lights on the helmet, and its advanced gloves were adjustable, reusable, and optimized for delicate work with tools in microgravity. Like earlier Apollo suits, this suit had liquid cooled undergarments and a similar bubble helmet under layers of insulation and protective visors. It also had several layers of insulation. The Shuttle EMU, however, had an outer layer of Ortho Fabric, a very sturdy material made from Gore-Tex, Kevlar, and Nomex. The entire unit weighed about
This suit is a reproduction and is on display in the museum's fourth building.
(Video) Space Suits Lecture from museum historian Dr. Doug Lantry
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