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X-rays Reveal Secrets In DC—Of Space Suits

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X-rays are revealing secrets in Washington, DC, and everybody seems thrilled. The exhibit Suited for Space opened last week at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, featuring X-ray pictures of vintage space suits.

The enthusiastically received exhibit also uses photos and pieces from actual suits to trace the evolution of outer-space outfits over the past 60 years. Cathleen Lewis, PhD, the museum’s curator of International Space Programs and Spacesuits, told the Houston Chronicle:

The X-rays are special because they are one way to show how complex they really were. When you see just the photographs of the suits, all you see is the surface layer. With X-rays, you can see the joint systems, the restraints, things that prevent the suits from ballooning up.

The X-rays also help curators as they try to preserve suits from NASA’s glory days that are decomposing, discoloring, or becoming rigid.

It’s no accident, Dr. Lewis said, that the suits echo fictional depictions of space travel from the early 20th century. “NASA had a demand to create the astronauts into a whole new corps, a nonmilitary corps,” she said, as quoted by the Associated Press. “So here was an opportunity to dress them in a new uniform … that evokes sensibilities of that Buck Rogers imagination. All of these guys, the engineers, they grew up on science fiction. They fed it with their ideas, and they were consumers of it at the same time.”

The exhibit, which has its own Facebook page, has been touring the country since April 2011. It has visited Chicago; Richmond, Virginia; Downey, California; Ashland, Nebraska; Tyler, Texas; Lowell, Massachusetts; and Flagstaff, Arizona. After its Air and Space Museum tenure ends January 21, 2014, it goes to the Tampa Bay History Center in Tampa (February 1, 2014–April 27, 2014), the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia (May 17, 2014–November 23, 2014), and The Museum of Flight in Seattle (December 13, 2014–March 8, 2015).

Click the links and check out the photos. Then ask yourself: would you trust one of those to protect you in space?

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