Spacesuit: Fashioning Apolloby Nicholas de Monchaux
Pub. Date: 03/18/2011
Publisher: MIT Press
When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface in July of 1969, they wore spacesuits made by Playtex: twenty-one layers of fabric, each with a distinct yet interrelated function, custom-sewn for them by seamstresses whose usual work was fashioning bras and girdles. This book is the story of that spacesuit. It is a story of the triumph over
When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface in July of 1969, they wore spacesuits made by Playtex: twenty-one layers of fabric, each with a distinct yet interrelated function, custom-sewn for them by seamstresses whose usual work was fashioning bras and girdles. This book is the story of that spacesuit. It is a story of the triumph over the military-industrial complex by the International Latex Corporation, best known by its consumer brand of "Playtex" -- a victory of elegant softness over engineered hardness, of adaptation over cybernetics.
Playtex's spacesuit went up against hard armor-like spacesuits designed by military contractors and favored by NASA's engineers. It was only when those attempts failed -- when traditional engineering firms could not integrate the body into mission requirements -- that Playtex, with its intimate expertise, got the job.
In Spacesuit, Nicholas de Monchaux tells the story of the twenty-one-layer spacesuit in twenty-one chapters addressing twenty-one topics relevant to the suit, the body, and the technology of the twentieth century. He touches, among other things, on eighteenth-century androids, Christian Dior's New Look, Atlas missiles, cybernetics and cyborgs, latex, JFK's carefully cultivated image, the CBS lunar broadcast soundstage, NASA's Mission Control, and the applications of Apollo-style engineering to city planning. The twenty-one-layer spacesuit, de Monchaux argues, offers an object lesson. It tells us about redundancy and interdependence and about the distinctions between natural and man-made complexity; it teaches us to know the virtues of adaptation and to see the future as a set of possibilities rather than a scripted scenario.
- MIT Press
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- Product dimensions:
- 7.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
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I bought this because I'm writing a science fiction novel involving spacesuits, and it's been very helpful for that. But this is a completely wonderful book for all kinds of readers -- it has lots of interesting history of the space program that I never knew, it has good reflections on how products should be designed, it has stuff on fashion and how Christian Dior influenced the space program (really) and lots of other unusual stuff. It's well written and I found it completely fascinating. I'd recommend it to anybody with interests in space, history, fashion or architecture.