Spacesuits in "Gravity"

I grew up in the 60s and 70s and was an avid follower of the US manned space program from the Gemini launches on. My impression has always been that the donning and doffing of a spacesuit is a complicated and potentially dangerous business that has to be done carefully and methodically. I was also under the impression that they typically had water-cooled underwear etc.

In “Gravity”, however, Sandra Bullock seems to get in and out of spacesuits faster and with more ease than I experience getting ready to go outside in the winter. And she’s only wearing shorts and a tank-top underneath them.

Have spacesuits developed to the extent that this is realistic or is has the director taken some artistic license so that he can move the story along more easily?

I wore a real spacesuit when I went to NASA Space Camp in Hunstville, AL during high school. I got to be the Mission Specialist who had to take a simulated spacewalk to repair a satellite from a long robotic arm. They are bulky and somewhat difficult to get into especially for a first timer. I had two trained people helping me get in it but I don’t recall any special complications. However, those things are insulated incredibly well. The first thing you have to do if you are putting one on for simulation purposes is to put on an under-suit with pockets that hold ice packs all over your body. Even then, it still gets fairly hot.

Putting one on in space would be more difficult because that requires active life support systems and cooling systems that have to be hooked up and triple-checked. That was in the late 1980’s and it was the same style of space suit that the shuttle crews used for extravehicular space walks during the shuttle program. I don’t know if they have gotten any simpler or less bulky since then but I doubt it based on recent photos I have seen. I think the director took some artistic license. Watching somebody take half an hour to get suited up in a space suit probably isn’t the best use of movie time for most audiences.

A couple of real versions:

Trying On a Real Space Suit

How Astronauts Put on Space Suits

There’s an article here, where NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao discusses how realistic or otherwise Gravity is. He has several points about the spacesuits.

I just assumed that she did spend significant time suiting up, and that the movie just didn’t show those parts because they were boring.

What about the time she had 7 minutes to move the ship she was in before the debris came around again, and within that 7 minutes she suited up, did a spacewalk, freed the ship from the parachute that was tangled with the other module, and got back in?

I could watch Sandra B wiggle into a space suit or anything else for hours & hours… What? :smiley: