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  Apollo flight suits: White versus other colors

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Author Topic:   Apollo flight suits: White versus other colors
mforceone
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From: Netherlands
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 03-15-2006 10:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mforceone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Why were some of the flight suits of the lunar lander pilots white? Was there a scientific reason to it?

Example: Charlie Duke's and Pete Conrad's.

Is it also known who wore these suits and how many there are in circulation?

Tom
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posted 03-15-2006 03:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
All flight suits on Apollo missions were white. It wasn't until Apollo 13 that the commander's suit had red elbow and knee stripes added to distinguish the two astronauts on the surface.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-15-2006 03:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe he is referring to the Nomex flight suits, not the A7L(B) spacesuits. During the Apollo era astronauts wore mustard, light blue and white flight suits. Is there any particular meaning to the color? Were they job/center specific?

Tom
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posted 03-15-2006 03:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Oh, good question. I remember seeing the mustard colored flight suits for the first time on the Apollo 17 crew taken on the carrier deck.

It was around that we saw the same mustard color on the straps of the Skylab as well as the ASTP spacesuits.

Weren't the Gemini flight suits usually blue and the Apollo suits white?

spacecraft films
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posted 03-15-2006 03:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacecraft films   Click Here to Email spacecraft films     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If memory serves, the earth tones of the mustard colored suits came later (as with Apollo 17), as a result of studies into long-term flight that were going on with Skylab.

You'll note the in-flight garments changed with Skylab and ASTP to more Earth tones as well (from Apollo's white in-flight garments).

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-16-2006 10:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The white Nomex flight suit in question and worn during Apollo can be seen here:

mforceone
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posted 03-16-2006 11:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mforceone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you all for replying, and thank you Robert for posting the image. Indeed this is the particular type of white flight suit/coverall I am investigating.

I want to know whether they are only used on Apollo training, I know they were not worn in flight. Related to that: how many of these are in circulation and from whom.

I ask this because I obtained one without the name label. I am investigating its authenticity and origins.

mjanovec
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posted 03-16-2006 12:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've always gotten a laugh from that photo. It looks like Fred Haise has just told a dirty joke to Lovell and Swigert.

spacecraft films
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posted 03-16-2006 02:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacecraft films   Click Here to Email spacecraft films     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We have motion picture footage on our Apollo 13 set taken at the same time as this photo. What I found funny is that the suit Lovell is wearing looks like a gas station mechanic's suit, with the "Jim" patch being the only marking.

carmelo
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From: Messina, Sicilia, Italia
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posted 03-16-2006 03:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The white suit was only on Apollo 13, right?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-16-2006 03:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No, it was not Apollo 13 specific. Pete Conrad and Charlie Duke have both sold their personal white flight suits at auction over the past 10 years. The white suits were used throughout the Apollo Program; the only question is where and why the distinction?

John Youskauskas
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posted 03-16-2006 09:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Youskauskas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For reasons unknown, the white flight suits I have seen in photos and film have always been associated with those flying the LLTV. Note that all of the suits mentioned here sold at auction belonged to LM guys.

mforceone
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From: Netherlands
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posted 03-17-2006 05:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mforceone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mark, it may have been a joke because of the Jim patch. Maybe that's why they are having fun. "Don't worry, Jim's a mechanic, he'll fix it".

Regarding the LLTV suits: that was my thought too. I did find a photo of Neal Armstrong in a light blue suit training in the LLRV dated 2/12/1969.

White suit photos: I'll try to take some photos this coming week.

Rick Boos
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posted 03-17-2006 06:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Boos   Click Here to Email Rick Boos     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Years ago I saw that the family of Jim Irwin sold both a mustard colored suit as well as a light blue one at the auctions. So the mustard suits were used before Apollo 17.

Mary told me that Jim used the mustard one for painting the house after he left NASA. The suit listed in the auction did have paint on it. Guess Al Bean isn't the only Apollo astronaut painter!

carmelo
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From: Messina, Sicilia, Italia
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posted 03-17-2006 08:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mustard-yellow suit and mustard-yellow jacket (not the same mustard color of Apollo 17, not the brown-tobacco color of Skylab-ASTP missions) was used since 1970, together blue sky flight suit. The crews of Apollo 14, 15, 16 preferred classic blue flight suit.

spacecraft films
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posted 03-17-2006 10:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacecraft films   Click Here to Email spacecraft films     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by John Youskauskas:
For reasons unknown, the white flight suits I have seen in photos and film have always been associated with those flying the LLTV.
But the LMPs didn't fly the LLTV... only the commanders... correct?

John Youskauskas
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posted 03-17-2006 02:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Youskauskas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to the book "First Man" p.328, the LLTV pilots were Armstrong, Borman, Anders (LMP), Conrad, Scott, Lovell, Young, Shepard, Cernan, Gordon (CMP), and Haise (LMP)... obviously Gordon was in preparation for Apollo 17 or 18. Haise, as seen in the photo, flew it during training for Apollo 13. Anders seems to be the oddball of the group being on 8 with no LM.

Tom
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posted 03-17-2006 03:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bill Anders was originally scheduled to fly on Apollo 9 as LMP carrying the second Lunar Module.

That mission was to take him, CDR Frank Borman and CMP Mike Collins to a record altitude of 4000 miles, where they would do maneuvers with the CSM and LM.

Ray Katz
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posted 03-17-2006 03:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ray Katz   Click Here to Email Ray Katz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think we're over analyzing it. They wore flight suits because they were continuously piloting jets around the country. Flight suits came in several colors and each astronaut probably had a closet full of them.

I own Charlie Duke's recovery flight suit worn on the aircraft carrier after Apollo 16. It happens to be blue...

carmelo
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From: Messina, Sicilia, Italia
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posted 03-18-2006 08:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by mforceone:
It would seem to me the logo had no white line on light garments (see the Conrad suit), no matter what flight it was from.
Correct. The first use of modern meatball with blue edge is in Apollo 12, not Apollo 15.

Herk115
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posted 03-25-2006 07:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Herk115     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ray Katz:
They wore flight suits because they were continuously piloting jets around the country. Flight suits came in several colors and each astronaut probably had a closet full of them.
I think you're correct to a certain degree there; at any given time the guys had a locker full of several different types of suits. I got to peek in Gordon Fullerton's locker at NASA-Dryden in 1993 and that was indeed the case.

Yet there are definitely certain "flight suit eras" discernible in the photographic documentation. Light blue was worn in the T-38 (with a few exceptions) from about 1962 through 1972. Different types of light blue suits are seen but I won't get into those. The mustard suits then start to show up, as far as I can tell, about 1971, and have totally replaced the light blue by 1973.

Sometime after Skylab the mustard becomes a very yucky brown (and remember, I'm talking about the flight suit worn in a T-38, not in a spacecraft), then BANG! in 1976 the royal blue appears and though it has gone through several iterations is still the color preferred by the astronaut office.

In the middle of all this we have the guys wearing white suits in the LLTV (and a couple of orange ones). But when in the Apollo centrifuge, for some reason they wear a U.S. Navy issue orange suit.

It's just confusing and I, like others, cannot figure out why they had to wear a white flight suit in the LLTV.

By the way, the very early royal blue flight suits were not nomex, but a very non-durable type of cotton called "mountain cloth." These suits literally started to fall apart after only a few machine washings, yet they procured them and wore them for years. The first royal blue nomex suits first showed up in 1982 or so and were manufactured by Flight Suits Ltd., in El Cajon, California (the manufacturer of the suits currently worn). These early nomex suits are identifiable by the very wide waist band.

Ray Katz
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posted 03-27-2006 10:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ray Katz   Click Here to Email Ray Katz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have this in a note from Charlie Duke (which he provided with his Apollo 16 recovery flight suit).
During my almost ten years at NASA, the color and material of the flight suits were changed three times. Today, the color of the Astronaut flight suit is a medium blue." The note was dated January 29, 2001.

Herk115
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posted 03-29-2006 10:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Herk115     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ray, would it be possible to ask Charlie Duke if he remembers why the white flight suit was mandated for the LLTV?

Ray Katz
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posted 03-30-2006 01:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ray Katz   Click Here to Email Ray Katz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would LOVE to ask Charlie Duke about the white flight suits. Unfortunately, I don't really know him. I bought his Apollo 15 recovery flight suit at a Christie's auction. The note he wrote about NASA flight suits came with the lot.

mforceone
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From: Netherlands
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 03-14-2007 06:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mforceone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had a chance to talk face-to-face with Buzz Aldrin yesterday in the Technical University of Delft, Netherlands and he explained that the color white was used to reflect off the heat (from the desert and the LLTV itself). I have the question and answer on video.

He was very forthcoming in answering questions.

larry115
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posted 05-03-2014 10:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for larry115   Click Here to Email larry115     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Since my last post, made under the user name "herk115," I've learned a few things more.

No one seems to know why the guys wore the white "bags" to fly the LLTV. Yet they knew they were specifically for the LLTV, for Pete Conrad signed one for auction, "My LLTV Flight Suit." Perhaps whatever this white material was, it may have ben more fire resistant to the propellants used in the LLTV (just guessing).

After reading Bill Pogue's last book, I saw he shed some light on flight suit colors. He states that the light blue flight suit was made from "cotton poplin," and not Nomex as I had assumed. The change to the mustard colored suits, he states, was a response to the Apollo 1 fire, when NASA decided everything had to be fireproof.

He said that the mustard color was the first version of Nomex available, and that was the only color it came in. I question this, because at the same time combat aircrews in Vietnam were wearing suits made of green Nomex. But then, Pogue is dredging up 40-year old memories, and NASA may have had its own reasons for rejecting green Nomex, so it is very likely that a decision was made higher up to dress the guys in the first available non-green Nomex they could find.

That said, later research I did revealed that the mustard/gold/brown flight suits were not straight Nomex, but a variant of Nomex called "Durette," which was fire resistant in high-oxygen environments (the current green and tan shiny flight jackets worn by U.S. combat aircrews are made of Durette). This completely jibes with NASA's thinking at the time, and may well explain the shift to the mustard color.

However, it does not explain the 1976 shift back to royal blue flight suits made of cotton.

I hope this helps clear things up... and that I've not added to the confusion.

David C
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From: Pasadena
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posted 05-04-2014 07:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by larry115:
However, it does not explain the 1976 shift back to royal blue flight suits made of cotton.
Very interesting Larry. May I suggest that after ASTP and the retirement of Apollo hardware, NASA no longer used very oxygen rich environments except for EVA. So a return to cotton probably seemed acceptable, at least until blue Nomex became available.

garymilgrom
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posted 05-04-2014 07:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by larry115:
However, it does not explain the 1976 shift back to royal blue flight suits made of cotton.

Perhaps some vendors have moved from Nomex to fire resistant (FR) cotton or other materials. This has happened in the auto racing safety industry. And the FR rating is not the only item that might be considered - I've seen FR cotton that had a strong fish odor. That was unacceptable in the consumer product being evaluated, let alone the confines of a spacecraft.

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