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The Evolution of the Spacesuit – Dallas Campbell
September 2 @ 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
THE EVOLUTION OF THE SPACESUIT – with Dallas Campbell
The history of the spacesuit dates back to the 1930’s when aviators were tentatively making the first exploratory steps into the thin hostile environment of the upper atmosphere. The American record breaking aviator Wiley Post set himself the task of creating a pressurised protective garment for his forays into the jet stream. Post enlisted the help of Russell Colley, (who went on to work on the silver Project Mercury suits) an engineer / women’s fashion designer working at the B.F. Goodrich company, to help him on this quest. And so began a story of engineering, material science and experimentation that continues to this day.
The early Wiley Post suit was a Heath Robinson affair, three layers in all: a warm thick cotton one piece undergarment, an inflatable rubber bladder suit (essentially a wearable bicycle inner tube) which is in turn encased in a heavy canvas and leather trimmed overall. A basic welded aluminium helmet with a round porthole reminiscent of a Victorian divers’ helmet is screwed on to the overall’s leather collar.
As we’ve journeyed further towards the stars, the materials used in spacesuits have became ever more exotic and sophisticated: Nylon, Spandex, Aluminized Mylar, Teflon, Nomex, Kevlar, Chromel-R, Beta cloth, polycarbonate, but the pressurised inflatable airtight bag philosophy has pretty much remained the same. That may be about to change as our steps towards humans on Mars will require ever more fiendish engineering solutions. There is a move towards skin tight suits applying direct mechanical pressure to the body rather than the inflatable Michelin Man look, but a Mars suit is fraught with technical challenges. Orders of magnitude more complex than even the Apollo suits.
About Dallas Campbell
Dallas presents some of television’s most popular factual programmes including: Science of Stupid, Bang Goes the Theory, The Gadget Show, Stargazing Live, The Sky at Night, Supersized Earth, Time Scanners, City in the Sky, Egypt’s Lost Cities, The Treasure Hunters, and Britain Beneath Your Feet.
His immersive documentaries lift the curtain on our human planet, giving audiences of all ages and backgrounds an exclusive backstage pass to some of the world’s most fascinating stories, ideas and places. From the bottom of Mexican sewers, to hanging off the top of the Burj Khalifa, Dallas has filmed in some of the most hair-raising places on Earth.
Beyond television, Dallas is an author, speaker, and ambassador for STEM education. He works closely with several major outreach initiatives, including The Big Bang Fair (young scientist and engineer of the year awards), Equinor Young Imagineers (with the Science Museum), and TeenTech, which helps kids across the UK think creatively about technology and innovation. He works internationally with the British Council’s FameLab project, designing and running workshops for early career academics, helping them hone their science communication skills.
He has won many plaudits for his services to the public understanding of science, including an Honorary Masters degree, an Honorary Fellowship from the British Science Association, honorary life membership for his work at the Royal Institution, and an Arthur C Clarke Media Award for services to space science. In 2016 Dallas was a guest director of the Cheltenham Science Festival.
His book Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet charts the history, science and culture of human spaceflight. He has also contributed to the book Aliens: Is There Anyone Out There? edited by Jim Al Khalili, and has written for The Sky At Night magazine, BBC’s Science Focus, and The Observer.
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