8.15 How come the pressurized spacesuits didn’t balloon?

IN A NUTSHELL: Because they had a containment layer, just like present-day spacesuits, and the outer layer wasn’t pressurized.

THE DETAILS: Some Moon hoax proponents wonder how astronauts could flex their fingers inside the bulky gloves of their spacesuits and more generally how they could move at all, since the suits, if pressurized as NASA claims, would have inflated like balloons in the vacuum of space and would have become impossibly rigid. Yet Apollo photographs show astronauts on the Moon moving around quite comfortably, with suits that show no sign of ballooning and are actually flexible and surprisingly creased and saggy.

This objection can be dismissed simply by considering that the American, Russian and Chinese spacesuits currently worn by astronauts during spacewalks on the International Space Station and in Chinese spaceflights are quite obviously flexible and don’t balloon, so there must be a way to solve these allegedly unsurmountable problems. That way is essentially the same one introduced by Russian and American spacesuits of the 1960s.

The Apollo spacesuits were pressurized to approximately one third of sea-level pressure; this helped to reduce the suit’s tendency to balloon. This lower pressure was countered by a non-elastic containment layer of mesh, integrated in the neoprene layer that formed the so-called Pressure Garment, i.e., the airtight part of the suit that enclosed the astronaut’s body. In other words, the suit could only expand until this mesh was taut. If you can imagine a balloon placed inside a bag of netting, or if you look at a garden hose, you have a good example of a pressure containment layer.

The fingers, shoulders, knees and elbows of the suit had accordion-like joints that allowed flexing without ballooning. Moreover, the spacesuit was actually two suits worn one over the other: the inner Pressure Garment (Figure 8-21) and the white outer unpressurized protective suit (Figure 8-22), designed to withstand fire, abrasion and micrometeoroids and provide thermal insulation.

Figure 8-21. Gene Cernan checks the fit of the airtight inner layer of the Apollo spacesuit, known as Pressure Garment. Note the accordion-like joints at the elbows and fingers. NASA photo AP17-72-H-253.

Figure 8-22. Left: Charlie Duke (Apollo 16) tests the flexing of his Pressure Garment. Right: Ron Evans (Apollo 17) checks the upward reach of his arm while wearing both the inner Pressure Garment and the white outer protective suit.

In summary, the Apollo spacesuits don’t look like they’re pressurized simply because what we normally see is their outer layer, which indeed wasn’t pressurized.