Thanks to Greg Foot for leading me to this delightful gallery of couture space fashion circa 1959 - present. I'd love to know more about the team behind each of these - did they employ seamstresses and tailors as well as materials scientists and flight suit technicians?
One of NASA's seven original astronauts, Gordon Cooper modelling the Mercury flight suit developed by B. F. Goodrich in 1959. I love how Cooper looks every inch the dashing hero - the pose, the athletic figure, the rich Kodachrome(?) colours. He lived out that image too - after a power failure onboard one spaceflight disabled the navigation instruments, Cooper used his knowledge of star patterns and chalk markings he made onto the capsule window to correctly gauge the timing and angle for his re-entry.
Famed lunar golfer Alan Shepard wearing the suit designed for the 1971 Apollo 14 mission, which he commanded. Contrasting the bravado seen in Cooper's picture, Shepard looks smaller and fragile. Instead of a man wearing a suit, we see an elaborate piece of equipment built to protect a precious cargo. An element of the biomechanical also creeps in, with numerous ports and tubes ferrying life-saving fluids to the demanding creature inside - hence the term "umbilical cables".
Finally, here are NASA's prototype suits, seen during a testing session in Moses Lake, Washington. The astronaut is no longer recognisable as human - the faceless hunched figures with cameras hanging from their necks look like strange alien tourists. Hidden inside, wrapped in a small piece of Earth's atmosphere taken with them, the spacemen are no longer visible as such at all. It's almost as if to get to alien worlds we need to give up a little bit of our humanity in the process. Let's hope we don't trade off too much.