There's a classic series of black-and-white photos from the mid-80s showing early shuttle astronaut Anna Fisher in a helmet; one was reportedly on the cover of Life magazine.

Black and white closeup photo of astronaut Anna Fisher in a space helmet

Image source: reddit, also posted many places

Today I came across a color photo from the same series, that I had never seen before. Looking at that, I don't recognize the helmet as a Shuttle suit helmet.

similar but color photo of astronaut Anna Fisher in a space helmet showing the whole helmet

Image source: Facebook post

What is this helmet? Is it from a real suit?


It was an early helmet/visor prototype for the Shuttle EMU

Challenges in the Development of the Shuttle Extravehicular Mobility Unit describes how the suit used for spacewalks on the Space Shuttle -- the Extravehicular Mobility Unit -- evolved from the spacesuits used for Apollo. (Considering that ILC Dover manufactured both suits, this should not be a surprise.)

Particularly relevant to this question is the fact that both EVA suits had a separate helmet and visor. The helmet is a clear plastic bubble that completely surrounds the head, attaching to the suit torso at the neck ring, providing an airtight seal. The visor is an assembly that slips over the helmet, protecting the eyes, face, and head from sunlight. Visor assemblies often have a pull-down, gold-plated, semi-transparent face shield as well as side sunshades.

The Apollo helmet was largely cylindrical in shape, allowing the visor assembly to simply slip over it. Prototype Shuttle EVA helmets were more spherical, which prevents the visor from simply sliding over it. Instead, the chin has hinges and a buckle, which must be secured after the visor assembly is placed over the helmet. This can be seen in Figure 4 of Challenges, enlarged below:

early Shuttle visor prototype question's picture

(Worth mentioning that all intravehicular Shuttle suits -- manufactured by David Clark Company -- always had an integrated one-piece helmet/visor.)

The helmet and visor were subsequently redesigned, and the prototype was never used in space. However, like many prototypes, it was used for astronaut training. A NASA article has another photo and description of Anna Fisher wearing this helmet:

Reflecting concerns that tiles might be damaged during flight, in January 1980 NASA awarded Martin Marietta Aerospace’s Denver Division a contract to develop an inflight tile repair kit. Wearing a pressure suit, in July 1980 astronaut Anna L. Fisher tested the repair method in simulated weightlessness during parabolic flights aboard NASA’s KC-135 aircraft.

another photo of the helmet


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