Broadcast 3023 Kenneth Thomas

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Guest:  Kenneth (Ken) Thomas;  Topics:  Ken's book, "The Journey to MoonWalking" and the develop and engineering of spacesuits. In addition, we talked about new spacesuit design, commercial engineering and much more.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website,  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See   

We welcomed Ken Thomas to the program to discuss is excellent new book "The Journey to MoonWalking:  The People That Enabled Footprints On The Moon."  During the first segment of our 1 hour 47 minute two segment discussion, Mr. Thomas started out by telling us why he wrote this book.  I found it interesting that one of his reasons was to correct errors about the Apollo spacesuit history found in other books.  Ken took us through the spacesuit literature, the nature of the errors, how they happened to be, engineering issues that have led to different versions of the same story and much more. Don't miss it as it was and is a fascinating history with many industrial and commercial similarities beyond just spacesuits. 

Another important topic mentioned in this segment was how risk taking was seen and undertaken during the Apollo spacesuit development period.  Finding out that if a problem might be rare in occurrence but too costly to fix, company execs and engineers might roll the dice and not fix it.  He pointed out that with regards to spacesuit safety, problems with spacesuits left unresolved can injure and kill the user.  Our guest talked about costs versus risk, safety, and how such decisions have been made in other industries, much to the detriment of the company with liability.  Examples cited were the old Firestone tire case, Ford Pinto and gas tanks plus others.  Ken then discussed the commercial sector engineering approach to this issues as compare to the government or in our case, NASA's approach. 

Ken referenced many authors and books on these subjects so interested listeners have before them an excellent literature review should they wish to delve deeper into the subject.  Armchair engineers, spacesuit "pros" and "risk advisors" may want to gain some expertise in the subject and our guest has certainly made than an easy thing to do.

Listener Marshall called to talk engineering issues and flaws with our guest.  Don't miss the Ken & Marshall discussion.  Lessons learned for the development of new spacesuits came up.  Our guest mentioned the spacesuit history section in the Museum and named the person in charge.  NewSpace spacesuit development came up plus we talked about spacesuit related loss of life accidents for both the US and the old Soviet Union.  Ken referenced the work by the FAA in this regard.

Kim was the next caller.  Kim wanted to know about spacesuit improvements to overcome for the difficult movement in them and for injuries such as finger tips.  Our guest had much to say in response to Kim. Spacesuit movement design and joints are a big thing and lots of work has been done in this area with modern suits.  Ken outlined much of this material in his discussion with Kim.  The same for how to protect from injuries such as the fingertip issue.  You definitely want to hear about the new designs, joints and ways of improving the new suits.  One thing Ken pointed out was that the standards were different depending on the suit requirements. He listed emergency pressure requirements for zero pre-breathing by the Russians which was 6.0 pressure, ESA which was 7.2, and then NASA which was 8.0.  He explained these differences, what they meant, and what standard was used for new suit design given the differences above.  He explained the origins of the differences in light of the experience with Russia, ESA, and NASA.

Later in the discussion I asked Ken about spaceflight in a short sleeve environment with triple redundant spacecraft pressurization systems.  Ken was not supportive of going to space (actually a much lower altitude) without a pressure or spacesuit.  Don't miss what he said and why.  He cited historical examples where this or that was to be the safest ever, no crashes, no problems, then he pointed out the White Star Lines and their flagship Titanic. 

Spacesuit manufacturing was discussed as were components such as the aluminum hard upper torso shell.  NASA welding issues and history were brought up, then we looked at the history of the early spacesuit designers.  ILC, ILC Dover, Hamilton and its later versions.  Ken was then asked about positive pressure suits or as he referenced them, mechanical counter pressure suits.  He did not think much of them but listen to his explanation.

Listeners asked about the development of the new commercial and NewSpace spacesuits.  Ken had much to say, mentioned several of the suit companies and their lead designers.  He said they were doing a good job. Several of the folks working with these new spacesuits were given a shout out by our guest. 

Before the program ended, Paul sent in an email asking about the differences with a lunar spacesuit and a Mars spacesuit.  Our guest had much to say about this too so don't miss his comments.  As a final reminder, his book is superb. If you purchase it on Amazon, please use The Space Show portals.  For information visit

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog.  You can reach Mr. Thomas through me.




Ken's new book, "The Journey to Moonwalking"

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26 Nov 2017 Kenneth Thomas
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