This answer shows two astronauts on a spacewalk outside the ISS. The caption reads:

Rick Mastracchio as EV1 (red stripes) and Mike Hopkins as EV2 (no stripes) leaving the airlock during US EVA-24 (Credit: NASA)

Question: Why do some astronauts (okay, some suits) have stripes, and some don't? What do these signify? Which colors are used and what do they signify? How do these correlate (if at all) to the single digit numbers shown on the side of the astronauts' "backpack frame" SAFER?

enter image description here

above: Annotated from this answer. #4 has red stripe, #6 has no stripe

below: Cropped/annotated from this answer. Has #6 and red stripe.

enter image description here

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Great question! FYI, I have asked a related question as to why red specifically. $\endgroup$
    – BruceWayne
    Mar 4, 2019 at 15:13
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @BruceWayne I noticed that it's red candy-striping shown in the image in BowlOfRed's answer as well. I wonder if it's worth adding that to your question as well? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 4, 2019 at 15:19
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Good point, I'll ask about that too :) $\endgroup$
    – BruceWayne
    Mar 4, 2019 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ You have to be able to difference movie requisites by season. $\endgroup$
    – Overmind
    Mar 5, 2019 at 11:17

2 Answers 2


They're simply visual differences for identification.

After Apollo 11, folks on the ground had a hard time finding photos of Armstrong on the moon. Most photos were taken by him and there was no obvious way to distinguish the two suits. After that stripes were added to the commander's suit for the remaining Apollo missions.

As far as I'm aware, the stripes on the current US suits have no specific meaning or designation. There could be some operational considerations, but I've never seen them mentioned. A broken "candy stripe" is also possible.

From this NASA page:

Some suits are plain white; some have red stripes; and others have candy cane stripes. These variations help to tell one spacewalker from another.

enter image description here

That said every astronaut does not always wear unique suits. The press release for an upcoming EVA will usually identify which is worn by which astronaut.

Example: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-preps-for-space-station-power-upgrade-spacewalks-live-nasa-tv-coverage

This will be the 196th and 197th spacewalks in support of space station assembly and maintenance. Kimbrough will be designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing the suit bearing red stripes for both spacewalks, the third and fourth of his career.

Whitson will be making the seventh spacewalk of her career and match the record of NASA’s Suni Williams, for most spacewalks by a woman. She will be designated extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the suit with no stripes for the first spacewalk.

Pesquet, who will be making the first spacewalk of his career, will be extravehicular crew member 2 for the second spacewalk, also wearing a suit with no stripes.

I've never seen information on the SAFER numbers. I'd assume it's just to identify the different units, but have no info on it.

  • $\begingroup$ Glad to know they're both wearing identical suits. How useful. ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Strawberry
    Mar 5, 2019 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ there is some discussion about what "After Apollo 11" means below this answer $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 31, 2019 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ In my answer, it just means that they realized the problem when looking at photos from 11. It doesn't indicate anything about when it was changed. My memory is that it wasn't until 13 that changes could be made, but I'd have to see if I could find that. $\endgroup$
    – BowlOfRed
    Aug 31, 2019 at 0:26

Apollo 17 footage from Inside NASA's Last Moon Mission (also Vimeo) found at https://www.mattmortonmusic.com/ (music) which I found from this answer.

Per @BowlOfRed's answer later Apollo astronauts had red stripes.

Inside NASA's Last Moon Mission

Inside NASA's Last Moon Mission


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