I've been looking through images from the Smithsonian regarding early space exploration. In particular, I found this picture of a spacesuit glove, that has laces on it. In the picture's description, it says that the spacesuit this glove comes from was only used for training and display. But I imagine that such a spacesuit must be a facsimile of the spacesuits actually used.

an Astronaut's right glove, with laces like that of a shoe running down the back of the palm, tied at the wrist
Image from the National Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Did the gloves actually used in space by Mercury astronauts also have laces on them? If so, how did astronauts tie these laces?


2 Answers 2


There was no need for astronauts to adjust the laces. Laces were for sizing parts of the suit, not for putting them on or taking them off.

Unpressurized, the Mark IV was considered comfortable, and the plethora of straps and laces could be overcome by custom-fitting the suits to each astronaut.

Dressing for Altitude: U.S. Aviation Pressure Suits -— Wiley Post to Space Shuttle, p. 235

However, there was not time to custom-fit the Mercury suits, so the laces stayed:

By March 1960, NASA had ordered 21 modified Mark IV suits for use on Project Mercury. NASA designated them XN-1 through XN-4 models, but engineers generally referred to them as “quick fix” suits.

ibid, p. 235

The gloves were designed to be able to be removed:

The gloves used neoprene-coated fabric and coated Helenca fabric in stretch areas along with leather palms. A restraining wire bent to fit the hand prevented the palm of the glove from ballooning under pressure. The gloves were available in 15 sizes, consisting of 5 palm sizes with short, regular, or long fingers. The gloves attached using sealed disconnects secured by a slide-fastener zipper.

ibid, p. 228

Schirra and Gordon had longer Mercury flights, and each ate during their flight, though it is unclear if they removed their gloves.

All suits starting with Gemini were designed with wrist disconnects that allow an astronaut to don and doff their own gloves.


For project Mercury, the astronauts wore the pressure suit for the entire flight.

There was therefore no need for astronauts to tie laces, as that can done by ground crew before launch, and then untied after splashdown.

Whether actual flown equipment used laces I know not. Some images do not have them, some do

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    $\begingroup$ Given that two of the Mercuries are wearing combat boots spray painted silver for that photo, it doesn't say much about flight-ready equipment. ;) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 15:21

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