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  Apollo A7L/A7LB spacesuit neck ring colors

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Author Topic:   Apollo A7L/A7LB spacesuit neck ring colors
LM-12
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From: Ontario, Canada
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posted 08-29-2012 05:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In the Apollo 7 through Apollo 10 crew walkout photos, the EMU neck rings are blue. In the Apollo 11 through Apollo 17 crew walkout photos, the EMU neck rings are red. Why the change?

In the official Apollo 11 crew portrait, only Aldrin is wearing a red EMU neck ring.

A two-colour system could have distinguished a flight suit from a training suit, or an A7L suit from an A7LB suit, or a CMP suit from a CDR/LMP suit, but none of those seem to apply.

Just an observation.

MattJL
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posted 08-30-2012 06:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MattJL     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Odds are that I'm wrong, but maybe it has something to do with the intended usage of the suit. If I recall correctly, save for 9, when Schweickart went on EVA, none of the flights up until 11 had the outer helmet with the gold visor. Possibly there's a latch between the outer helmet and the neck ring that wasn't present on the blue neck ring?

Now, what I'm curious about is where Armstrong's and Collins' blue neck ringed suits are today, if they still exist.

LM-12
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posted 08-30-2012 06:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good point... the LEVA helmet could be the reason for the change.

But I still don't understand the blue neck rings in the Apollo 11 photo.

The Apollo 12 astronauts all had blue neck rings in their crew photo.

You may have noticed that in the Apollo crew portraits, the left wrist locking ring is blue and the right wrist locking ring is red. The Gemini suits were like that too.

MattJL
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posted 08-31-2012 12:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MattJL     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looking back at 11's portrat, it seems like Aldrin's red neck ring is a cover of some sort over the blue one (There's blue inside of the neck ring and a blue attachment point is visible as well). And yet it can't be, because the locking mechanism is red as well. Hmm.

Something else I've noticed in 11's portrat is that Armstrong's helmet has a red ring inside of it, and Aldrin's has a blue ring. Collins' bubble helmet is, oddly enough, blue (which, if I recall correctly, wasn't flown from 11 onwards).

Perhaps it was intended to differentiate between the commander's and the LMP's helmets, as they weren't labelled as clearly as, say, the gloves.

DG27
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posted 08-31-2012 03:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DG27     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The neck ring of the Apollo A7L suit was originally anodized blue in color. During use of the A7L suit, a design change was made to the vent port between the suit neck ring and the helmet. This change enlarged the vent port and slightly clocked its position on the neck ring. The color of the neck ring was changed from blue to red to make a clear distinction between the two vent port designs.

Thus an early (blue) A7L helmet would not get adequate vent flow on a later (red) neck ring suit and vise versa due to the changes in size and position of the vent port. A helmet with a blue neck ring will actually latch into a red suit neck ring but the vent ports will be misaligned. The first use of A7L suits with red neck rings was on the Apollo 11 mission. All subsequent A7L suits used the red neck rings as well as the A7LB suits.

The Apollo suit-side neck ring is actually made up of multiple parts, and all of them were initially anodized blue. When the vent port design change was made only the outer shell of the suit-side neck ring was changed in color from blue to red. All the other parts of the suit-side neck ring (with the exception of the suit-side vent port which was also changed from blue to red) remained blue. This is why the inside of a red suit-side neck ring is blue.

Further, the red neck rings included engraved wording stating that a red helmet neck ring should only be used with a red suit neck ring. Similar wording was on the red suit neck rings as well.

Crew photos were not necessarily taken with the crew wearing their flight spacesuit. Thus crew photos usually show a mix of neck ring colors as they used the suits that were available at the time of the photo.
In addition, crew training used whatever suits were available at the time. Only flight-day walk-out or in-flight photos will show what was actually used on the mission.

One additional note: In the Apollo 11 crew photo, only Collins is holding a helmet, both Armstrong and Aldrin are holding the LEVA without the helmets inside. The “red” color visible inside Armstrong’s LEVA is the interior of the LEVA shell which is red colored plastic.

Hope this helps.

LM-12
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posted 08-31-2012 06:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, that helps a lot. Thanks for the detailed explanation.

MattJL
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posted 09-03-2012 06:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MattJL     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Out of curiosity, what led to the change in size and position of the vent? Seems to be a bit sudden in my opinion.

DG27
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posted 09-12-2012 12:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DG27     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good question. Unfortunately, I have not found any documentation which describes why the change was made.

A possible explanation for modifying the vent port would be to fix a problem with visor fogging or inadequate CO2 washout in the helmet. So I checked the Mission Reports for Apollo 7 through 11 but there was no mention of any concerns with the helmet vent flow or any changes identified in the EMU from one mission to the next. The only EVA activity prior to Apollo 11 was the in-flight EVA on Apollo 9. The Apollo 9 Mission Report specifically states that no visor fogging occurred during the in-flight EVA.

So without specific documented evidence, I can only surmise that there may have been some problem during other suit use, such as lunar surface EVA training or metabolic load tests, which indicated a marginal vent flow to the helmet for EVA activity.

During IVA suit use the inlet gas to the suit is split equally between flow to the helmet and flow to distribution ducts in the waist area of the suit. When the suit is used for EVA, the diverter valve next to the blue inlet gas connector is set to the EV position. This diverts all inlet gas directly to the helmet, from where it then flows into the rest of the suit. So for EVA activity where the metabolic loads are the highest, the suit designers wanted to maximize vent flow to the helmet. One can make the argument that since Apollo 11 is the first mission where the lunar surface EVA activity occurs (ie high metabolic activity), that mission is where the enlarged vent port really needed to be in use. However this is speculation on my part.

I need to make a correction to my earlier post regarding the specific changes in the vent port. The vent port was enlarged, but mounted in the same location. Thus there was no change in clocking of the vent port. I pulled some hardware out and realized what I thought was a shift in position of the vent port was really slack between the mounting tang on the vent fitting and the mating alignment slot on the neck ring. When properly aligned via the mounting screws holes, the centerline of the vent port is the same between the blue and red neck rings. But the size of the vent port opening is significantly different between the two.

In doing some literature research, I was successful in locating a reference to an Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) submitted on August 28 1968 to “Redesign A7L Helmet Side and Suit Side Neck Ring”. Unfortunately there is no description of the ECP content, only the title and date. Without the specific wording of the ECP, I can only guess that this may have been the decision point where the vent port (and resulting neck ring color change) was submitted for implementation. A date of August 68 would give sufficient time to implement the design change for the first suits actually needing improved vent flow for lunar surface EVA activity, which would be Apollo 11.

Hope this helps.

LM-12
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posted 09-12-2012 08:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LM-12     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great resesarch. If there was some type of EVA-related vent flow problem in the pressure helmet, that certainly would explain the need for a neck ring redesign.

NavyPilot
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posted 01-12-2016 05:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NavyPilot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've noticed that between Apollo 7 and Apollo 11 there was a gradual transition in both training and flight suits from blue neck rings to red neck rings.

I assume that it is not related to the transition from A7L to A7LB configurations. Can anyone provide the background on the change?

As a federal employee, I am almost tempted to explain it away bureaucratically as a change or renewal of the ILC suit contract!

Editor's note: Threads merged.

Mike Dixon
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posted 01-12-2016 06:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike Dixon   Click Here to Email Mike Dixon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Haven't seen an Apollo 12 glossy (alternate shot) or litho with red neck rings either. Seems to have been red from Apollo 13 forward save for Aldrin on the Apollo 11 crew portrait.

Like you, I'd like that mystery solved but as with everything the answer may be far more simple that what we anticipate. At least we resolved the complete change in neck ring lock positions for Apollo 15, 16 and 17.

DG27
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posted 01-13-2016 05:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DG27     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by NavyPilot:
I assume that it is not related to the transition from A7L to A7LB configurations.
Yes, you are correct. The change in neck ring color occurred in the A7L suit and carried over into the A7LB suit. The change from blue to red neck ring colors is separate from the change from A7L to A7LB suit design.

However, the change from A7L to A7LB did result in a different change in the neck ring. The A7L neck ring (both red and blue versions) used a band compression clamp to secure the neck ring to the suit. This was changed to a more robust flange clamp secured with screws on the A7LB. The neck ring latch on the A7LB was also clocked slightly to one side to eliminate interference problems when the helmet was tilted forward on the neck mobility joint which was unique to the A7LB suit.

Regarding the neck ring color question, we know that all A7L flight suits for Apollo 7 thru 10 used the blue neck rings with the smaller vent port passageway in the neck ring. The A7L flight suits for Apollo 11 thru 14 and the A7LB suits used the larger vent port passageway and thus were red in color to identify the larger vent port. (Remember crew portraits did not necessarily use flight suits, and training suits can be older suits). Crew flight day suit up / walkout photos and in-flight photos are the only ones that show what was used during the mission.

The mystery remains as to why the change from narrow to wider vent port passageway was made. I am still searching for the Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) submitted on August 28 1968 to “Redesign A7L Helmet Side and Suit Side Neck Ring”. However, I will ask someone who was involved with suit training if he can shed some light on the neck ring change.

Daniel on the Moon
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posted 01-15-2016 07:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Daniel on the Moon   Click Here to Email Daniel on the Moon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by DG27:
The mystery remains as to why the change from narrow to wider vent port passageway was made.
I want to make sure that I understand your question, i.e. the vent port passage in Photo 1 is larger (allows greater flow, is wider) than the vent port in Photo 2?

For clarification, do you have a photo showing the inside of the vent port in Photo 2 so that I can see visually how much bigger the port is in Photo 1?

DG27
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posted 01-15-2016 07:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DG27     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, That is the question. I am trying to understand why the change was made. I was wondering if testing or training revealed that they needed more vent flow for surface EVA missions.
quote:
Originally posted by Daniel on the Moon:
For clarification, do you have a photo showing the inside of the vent port in Photo 2 so that I can see visually how much bigger the port is in Photo 1?
Yes, although it is not as clear as the red one you posted. This is a photo of the suit side neck ring vent port passageway for the blue neck ring. The machined slot looks to be narrower than the slot in the red one.

In this photo of the blue and red helmet neck rings you can see the relative size differences in the vent ports.

Daniel on the Moon
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posted 01-20-2016 04:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Daniel on the Moon   Click Here to Email Daniel on the Moon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Unfortunately I'm unable to provide a definitive documented answer, however, I may be able to provide "circumstantial evidence" that may provide additional insight.

First, I also agree that the information contained in the 8/28/68 Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) to "Redesign A7L Helmet Side and Suit Side Neck Ring" could provide the answer or at least part of the answer.

Finding the contents of the ECP is a challenge. International Latex Corporation (ILC) would be the best source for finding the ECP, however, many and probably most of the ECP's, drawings, etc. are on IBM punch cards stored at ILC and ILC no longer has a card reader! While working with the Smithsonian to save Armstrong's suit, ILC is trying to have the Smithsonian agree to convert all the punch cards, however, "don't hold your breath"1

Here's what I know about the vent port modification based on the following timeline:

July 23, 1968

In EMU Status Report #17, astronaut Ken Mattingly (Mattingly was the astronaut responsible for following the development of the EMU) reports under the heading "Potential Problems" that "PGA pressure drops have been uncontrolled on crew training suits. Col. Borman's suit had sufficient pressure drop to reduce the PLSS flow to 5 cfm. ILC is to insure that pressure drop specs are met on all future suits."
September 4, 1968
In EMU Status Report #18, under the heading "Problems", Mattingly documents the following, "EMU Ventilation - The PLSS has been consistently providing 5.5 cfm or less with pressure drops of 1.5" H2O. The PGA's on the other hand, have been consistently running above 2.0" H2O pressure drop. I am not aware of any effort on this problem; however, I suspect one proposed solution will be to lower the minimum flows to 5.0 cfm. This may be reasonable; however, it must be demonstrated.
November 11, 1968
Internal ILC Project Directive 1011 titled "Temporary Configuration Change for Fit Check of PGA's A7L-039, 050, 053, 054, 056 (Armstrong's) and 060." Project Directive Contents: "The present configuration of the subject PGA's requires installation of Vent Port, P/N A6L-101036-11. This vent port will interface with the 360 degree helmet-side Neck Ring.

Manufacturing is requested to remove the -11 Vent Port and install A6L-101036-03 in all subject suits prior to fit check. This transfer is required because of unavailability of suitable Helmet Assemblies at the time of fit check.

In addition, Engineering is submitting an ECR to change the color of the -11 Vent Port from blue to red. Therefore, Manufacturing should not reinstall the blue -11's pending Engineering disposition of the existing stock.

December 10, 1968
Internal ILC Project Directive 1034. titled "Fit Check Corrective Action of PGA-A7L-056" (Armstrong's PGA). Project Directive contents: "Astronaut Armstrong was satisfactorily fit checked on December 5, 1968. It should be noted that Vent Ports will have to be replaced to accommodate the redesigned Helmet Assembly, which will be available from Air-Lock on 1/2/69. QA & R is requested to perform PDA on the Helmet Assembly subsequent to PDA on the PGA to allow shipment as noted on the attached schedule."
January 16, 1969
In EMU Status Report #19, Mattingly reports the following: " PGA vent flow pressure drops are now within specification. (New suits; not new specification)!
It appears that consistent unacceptable suit pressure drops during testing resulted in vent port enlargement.

Does any of the above shed light on the "mystery" of the Vent Port Modification?

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