The Space.com article Astronauts Zip-Line to Safety in These NASA Emergency Evacuation Test Photos includes some interesting photos of the test. I show one of the photos below, plus sone cropped sections.

I'd like to understand why one researcher has what looks like a clear plastic bag on their head compared to the helmets on the two people serving as astronauts, and at least one person with nothing at all.

The caption for the photo:

Astronauts participate in a Boeing/United Launch Alliance (ULA) emergency-egress system demonstration at Cape Canaveral in Florida on June 19, 2018. The Boeing CST-100 Starliner will launch on a ULA Atlas V rocket, carrying astronauts to the International Space Station. Credit: Kim Shiflett/NASA/Flickr

Boeing/ULA emergency-egress Boeing/ULA emergency-egress

Boeing/ULA emergency-egress

Boeing/ULA emergency-egress click for full size

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure why the final, full image is still showing as 640px wide, and not medium size. I'm using the recipe to make it appear small (append "m" to the filename) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 8, 2018 at 9:08
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    $\begingroup$ Obligatory Johnny Space Commander reference: 2.bp.blogspot.com/-Gvm9EdKJREk/UJFFEfRfAmI/AAAAAAAADFg/… $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2018 at 14:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It seems to be an issue with Imgur. All the sizes I've tested (m, l, t) show with the same dimensions as the full image, except for s which is too small at 90 x 90. $\endgroup$
    – CJ Dennis
    Aug 9, 2018 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ @CJDennis thanks. I'll keep an eye on it now. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 9, 2018 at 9:48
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    $\begingroup$ Linked from another Q/A, white vehicle at left is a Caiman MRAP Emergency Egress Vehicle: nasa.gov/content/… $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2022 at 4:25

1 Answer 1


She is wearing an ELSA - Emergency Life Support Apparatus. It provides breathing air for a few minutes in case of emergencies, for example to escape a burning building. The clear plastic hood is used instead of a mouthpiece like divers use because it can be stored in a more compact way and it provides protection for the whole head against smoke and other toxic gases. It also allows the wearer to breathe almost as usual and doesn't need to fit the size of the wearer's head. She is most likely playing a worker who gets surprised by the emergency and wears her emergency rescue equipment she always has with her when working in dangerous areas. Miners use similar equipment, albeit usually a bit more sturdy.

Why the "astronauts" are wearing their usually helmets should be obvious - they are more durable and more comfortable for long-duration use. Note that one has the same yellow bag containing the air supply - they just connected it to the normal air inlet of their helmets to have a mobile air supply.

The guy without any protection is likely not part of the drill - just an outside observer. Note that he is also facing the wrong way - everybody else is walking away from the emergency seats hanging behind them that got them quickly away from the danger zone near the rocket in the background.

  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting! Could you expand on how the ELSA is fitted? Is it just elasticated around the neck? $\endgroup$
    – Jack
    Aug 8, 2018 at 10:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Jack That's likely. It's a commercial product you can buy with various masks and hoods. $\endgroup$
    – asdfex
    Aug 8, 2018 at 10:48
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    $\begingroup$ They are also used in areas of NASA facilities where oxygen might be deficient. The aft compartment of the Space Shuttle being a prime example. I worked at KSC for over nine years and we had to undergo yearly training on how to use these things. The first thing they told you in the training was, "forget everything you were told about putting a bag over your head." You start the flow of air first before putting the hood on over your head, obviously. $\endgroup$
    – EL MOJO
    Aug 9, 2018 at 13:29
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    $\begingroup$ Re, "it provides protection for the whole head" As in, It's a whole lot harder to escape if the acrid smoke/vapors prevent you from opening your eyes. $\endgroup$ Aug 9, 2018 at 22:59

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