Thursday, May 20, 2010

Emilio Herrera's 1936 Space Suit

In 1936 Spanish aeronautical engineer and pilot Col. Emilio Herrera (1879-1967) completed building a pressure suit--from canvas, wire, rubber, and a modified diving helmet--for an exploratory balloon ascent to 25,000 meters (82,020 feet). Above, one of Herrera's sketches, envisioning himself in his airship. Herrera tested the suit in an altitude chamber for over six hours, at very low pressures and cold temperatures, with no ill effects. Just before flight, though, the Spanish Civil War erupted. Herrera's balloon was cut up for soldier's ponchos, and the space suit was captured by Fascists. Herrera salvaged the helmet but was prevented by World War II and its aftermath from ever making his stratosphere flight. He is seen below working at his study in Madrid.

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