Mercury Space Suit (Mark IV)

The Mercury spacesuit was a custom-fitted, modified version of the Goodrich U.S. Navy Mark IV high altitude jet aircraft pressure suit. It consisted of an inner layer of Neoprene-coated nylon fabric and a restraint outer layer of aluminized nylon. Joint mobility at the elbow and knees was provided by simple fabric break lines sewn into the suit; but even with these break lines, it was difficult for a pilot to bend his arms or legs against the force of a pressurized suit. As an elbow or knee joint was bent, the suit joints folded in on themselves reducing suit internal volume and increasing pressure.

The Mercury suit was worn "soft" or unpressurized and served only as a backup for possible spacecraft cabin pressure loss - an event that never happened. Limited pressurized mobility would have been a minor inconvenience in the small Mercury spacecraft cabin. The Mark IV, Model 3, Type 1 suit from which it was derived featured various enhancements in fit and ease of donning, as well as substantially improved pressurization control. The original Mercury prototype suits were specially-reworked Mark IV suits (NASA designated them XN-1 through XN-4 models, but they were referred to by engineers as the "quick fix" suits).

Go on to the Gemini Program

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