After seeing the interesting question How do ISS astronauts “get their stripes”?, I was wondering why the color red was chosen for the identifying stripe:

enter image description here

I am assuming that red is the best color that stands out against their white suits and/or anything they may be working near, and perhaps shows up best when watching via Camera/CCTV. However, on this forum, someone noted that Dick Gordon's stripes were Yellow, to salute his Naval background (Navy Gold).

Also shown in one of the Answers for "How do ISS astronauts 'get their stripes'" question is a candy-striped marker, is there any official reason for that over a solid stripe? Or does that astronaut just have a strong affection for candy-canes?

enter image description here

Is there official explanation on the color choices? Could an astronaut have, say a blue stripe, or [insert Astronaut's favorite color here] if they wanted?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ The stripes started with Apollo 13. A search of the Apollo technical notes and handbooks note that the stripes are to aid in identifying crewmembers, but give no specific reason for the color red. My educated guess is that it has the highest contrast for both human eyes and black & white film. As for ISS, the suits stay on the ISS and are reused, so there is no personalization for favorite colors. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Aug 31, 2019 at 11:46

1 Answer 1


This NASA page states that the red stripes started with Apollo 13, so the commanders "could be distinguished from the LMPs in mission photographs." In particular, after Apollo 11, the NASA public affairs office was under great pressure to release developed pictures of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. The suits at that time had no distinguishing marks, so they had difficulty determining which pictures involved Armstrong.

(That page calls them "Commander's Stripes", which is not a good name. The commander did have red stripes on his arms, legs, and visor. However, during Apollo 15-17, the command module pilot and the lunar module pilot went out on a spacewalk to retrieve experiments from the service module. The LMP wore the same visor that he had used for the moonwalks, but the CMP borrowed the CDR's visor -- with its red stripe -- while the CDR stayed inside with only his bubble helmet. So a red stripe can also mean the CMP.)

My review of NASA technical literature including Apollo Experience Reports, Operator Handbooks, and the Program Summary Report all acknowledge the use of the stripe to identify the commander, but none of them give a specific reason for the color red. However, my educated guess is that it is the most distinctive color on both black-and-white and color film.

  1. The original justification for the stripes involved photography.

  2. There wasn't a lot of red already on the spacesuits.

  3. At least one suit used a yellow stripe: Apollo 15 backup commander Dick Gordon. It is barely visible on this color picture:

    yellow commander's stripe in color

    and is practically invisible in this black-and-white picture:

    yellow commander's stripe in b/w

By the way, the Russian Orlan suits have stripes, but a greater variety of colors: red, orange

orange Orlan

and blue

blue Orlan


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